Sure, it's just three games into the long season, but seeing the Chicago Bears with the only unblemished record in the NFC is still a huge surprise and newsworthy. Chicago is coming off a big upset in last Monday night's win over the Packers and will put its 3-0 mark on the line against a disappointing New York Giants team in the Sunday night prime time contest. NBC's broadcast is scheduled for 8:20 p.m. (ET).
The Chicago Bears appear to have their mojo back. The same can’t be said for the New York Giants.
With the Bears (3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS) riding high and the Giants (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS) hurting after a mediocre performance last week, the teams clash at New Meadowlands Stadium in the Sunday nighter (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC).
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I’ll get to Chicago in a moment, but first let’s look at a disturbing trend haunting New York bettors.
Last season, the Giants had the makings of a hard-luck club. New York finished 8-8 SU and a disappointing 6-9-1 ATS after starting the season 5-0 SU and 4-0-1 against the number.
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That said, had the Giants’ defense hit at its weight, New York could have easily won two more games and made the playoffs. The Giants finished 13th in total defense (324.9 YPG), including 15th against the pass and 14th against the run, but they ranked 30th in points allowed (26.7 PPG).
There was a major disparity between New York’s ability to defend and what was happening on the football betting scoreboard. Add all the injuries the Giants suffered last season, and I was confident this would even itself out in 2010.
Through three games, New York has the exact same problem. The Giants are in the top 10 in total defense (306.0 YPG), but again, they’re 30th in scoring defense (28.3 PPG).
There’s still plenty of time for New York to pull itself in line with the numbers, but it’s beginning to look like the Giants are what they are: A good but not great defensive team that allows way more points than it should.
Last week’s loss to Tennessee was a microcosm of New York’s problem. The Giants outgained the Titans 471-271, but they fell 29-10 as 3-point favorites after getting outscored 19-0 in the second half.
New York opened as 3½-point chalk against Chicago, and it was available at -4 and -4½ at some locations as of press time. The total was released at 43½, but has been wagered up to 44 and 44½ on the NFL betting odds board depending on the shop.
I’d expect the line to move in the other direction before kickoff. 61% of plays on the spread have come in on the Bears according to consensus data, and you can’t find fault in NFL bettors’ behavior.
Chicago looks like a completely different team than last year’s version. Julius Peppers is making a difference on the defensive line and Brian Urlacher, while not the player of five years ago, is patrolling the middle with authority.
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Jay Cutler is back to playing like he did when he made the Pro Bowl two years ago, even if the Bears got some good fortune in Monday night’s 20-17 win over Green Bay.
The Packers outgained the Bears 379-276 in the anticipated football matchup between Cutler and Aaron Rodgers, but Chicago forced Green Bay into 18 penalties for 152 yards.
That, and Devin Hester’s 62-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter was the difference, even if Cutler was steady in going 16-of-27 for 221 yards with a TD and an interception. The Bears also needed Robbie Gould’s 19-yard field goal with four seconds remaining to seal the deal as 3-point underdogs.
I like Chicago at its current price, even if oddsmakers have set a good number. This is a road game for the Bears, after all, and if there’s one thing the Giants bring to the table it’s pass defense. New York ranks fourth in the NFL against the pass (169.3 YPG).
At the same time, expect there to be pressure on Eli Manning to make plays on Sunday night: Chicago sports the league’s best rush defense (39.7 YPG).
Manning was 34-of-48 for 386 yards with two picks last week against Tennessee, and couldn’t put the ball in the end zone when New York needed to get back in the game in the second half.
The Giants have also struggled at the window against decent opposition since last season. New York is only 1-8 ATS in its last nine games against teams with winning records.