Through five weeks, here’s what I know about the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers — both teams are better than anyone could have expected.
The hows and whys of the Bears’ 4-1 and Panthers’ 3-2 starts, which include bouts of inconsistent play and glaring deficiencies, aren’t exactly the typical standards for success, yet here we are.
This week, one of these teams will continue to outperform expectations (and perhaps also defy logic), while the other will be knocked down a peg.
And as much as I like Nick Foles, and as much as I think the Bears can ultimately find a way to the postseason, and, by the way, I loved the Bears to cover a week ago, I absolutely hate them this week. Sorry, Illinois.
Why I’m Betting on the Panthers to Beat the Bears
The Bears vs. Panthers line moved from Chicago +2.5 earlier in the week to Chicago +1 by Saturday afternoon, and that makes sense given bettors at shops such as DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook have been hammering Matt Nagy’s squad.
Maybe it was the impressive late-game drive engineered by Foles to knock off Tom Brady and a red-hot Bucs squad last Thursday. Maybe it was Khalil Mack’s awakening in that game. Maybe it’s just a lack of belief in a Panthers team that has already matched the total number of wins projected by many.
But I think that movement is wrong, and I’m happy to fade the public opinion this week.
Let’s establish something that general football fans may not already know. Matt Rhule is a good coach — a really good coach — and he has a track record of quickly turning around seemingly hopeless situations. What we’re seeing in Carolina this season is simply history repeating itself.
- In 2013, Rhule took over a Temple program coming off a miserable 2-10 season. Jump ahead a few years, and Temple posted a 20-7 record over Rhule’s final two seasons.
- At Baylor, Rhule inherited a 1-11 disaster at Baylor, a program also dealing with a variety of off-field issues. Two years into his tenure, Baylor was 11-1.
- This season, Rhule inherited a 5-11 Panthers team that many figured would go into a total rebuild. Then, he lost his best player in Christian McCaffrey. No worries. The Panthers shook off an expected 0-2 start with an unexpected three-game winning streak.
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Betting Trends Backing the Panthers Over Bears
Obviously, we have a short spread here, and Teddy Bridgewater has been much better in this spot than Foles. Bridgewater is 5-2 ATS when favored by less than three points, while Foles is 1-3 ATS in games as an underdog of less than three points.
Perhaps more importantly, the Bears have been an awful bet on the road against teams with winning records under Nagy. Entering Sunday, the Bears are just 1-5 ATS on the road against teams with winning records.
Notably, the Bears have been unable to get the ground game going in recent weeks, albeit they have faced some elite run-stopping units. Still, Chicago is just 3-9 ATS in its last 12 games following an effort in which they rushed for less than 90 total yards. Last week against the Bucs, the Bears managed just 35 rushing yards.
Moreover, Chicago has struggled to maintain ATS success recently. The Bears are just 2-6 ATS in their last eight games following an outright win, and they’re 0-5 ATS in their last five games following a cover. Just brutal.
Finally, there are also some trends that point in favor of the Panthers, but given the recent coaching change in Carolina, it would be a bit disingenuous to note without a disclaimer something like the Panthers being 6-1 ATS in their lats seven October contests, though it’s true.
Bears vs. Panthers Prediction
This feels like a situation where belief in the unbelievable pays off. It’s almost as if the public doesn’t want to believe what’s becoming clear –the Panthers aren’t elite, but they’re a solid team that is also playing with lots of momentum. And this week, at home, that should be enough against a scrappy but flawed Bears team that simply isn’t as good as their record shows.
Bears vs. Panthers Pick
I’m taking the Panthers (-1) to cover this week.
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