This is less a gambling guide, and more an overview of the weekend’s action with predictions. But my gambling choices are evident in my final score prognostications. (All lines from DraftKings Sportsbook.)
Four games. I’ll give you a bet for each. (All odds courtesy of DraftKing Sportsbook.)
Saturday 3:35 PM Central
Bills at Texans (-2.5)
My heart is all-in for the boys from 716 but Josh Allen, facing a good pass rush, on the road, terrifies me. Look for Allen to use his legs a bunch in this one but I still don’t see Buffalo producing enough offense. If this line were a point higher, I’d go the other way. Begrudging Bet: Houston -2.5.
Saturday 7:15 PM Central
Titans at Patriots (-5)
Bill Belichick will go into this game with a one-track mind. If the Patriots stop Derrick Henry, they win. But Henry has quietly become the best back in football and New England struggles upfront against these bruising-type runners. I don’t know if Tennessee wins this game but I like them to keep it close. Bet: Tennessee +5.
Sunday 12:05 PM Central
Vikings at Saints (-8)
I thought the Saints were in the best team in football in 2017. They lost in the playoffs on a ridiculous play.
I thought the Saints were the best team in football in 2018. They lost in the playoffs on a ridiculous call.
I think the Saints are the best team in football in 2019. They’re not losing to Kirk Cousins. Bet: New Orleans -8.
I was sitting on a stool at The Copper Kettle, my local in Woodside, Queens, and a liquored up friend of mine, a mumbling Irishman known as “Mel” who loves the Pittsburgh Steelers, turned my way. “You know I think you’re going to the Super Bowl,” he said, referring to the Chicago Bears. He actually said, “Joe, binky broofer soul” but I got where his brain was going.
I did what I always do when that particular suggestion is made (and it’s happening more often these days). “We’ll see,” I said. It wasn’t a response out of modesty or fan humility. It wasn’t an attempt to avoid a jinx. In other words, it wasn’t bullshit. It was about altering expectations. That can take time.
I came into this season, especially after the acquisition of Khalil Mack, believing the Bears could weasel their way into the postseason if the quarterback and offense came along by midseason. After watching the Bears dismantle the Vikings from a Paris hotel room in the middle of the night, those expectations changed to a division title. The Bears were clearly the best team in the NFC North. They needed to finish the season atop the table. They did.
Now, with two weeks to go in the regular season, there are only a pair of teams in the NFC with better records than the Bears: the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. And I’m no longer convinced the Bears can’t beat both of them. In any building.
It is nice to have such thoughts in December.
It’s been a long time. A long, long time. In 2013 the Bears had a chance to make the playoffs over the final month but they were 6-6 at this stage and a definitive mediocrity. Per Football Outsiders, the Bears have an 85.1% chance to win the NFC North and a 96.3% chance of making the postseason. This is the kind of piece I’ve wanted to write for a long, long, long time.
Bears (8-4) are home to the Rams and Packers, followed by at Niners and Vikings.
Vikings (6-5-1) are at Seahawks, home to the Dolphins, at Lions, home to the Bears.
*Note: If the Bears are competing for a wildcard spot, one must assume the Vikings have won the NFC North. So we can leave them out of this equation.*
The offense is a work-in-progress. The defense is the most exciting unit the Bears have fielded since 2006. The Bears evened their season record at 1-1 and quieted some of their Week One demons. Here’s a rapid fire recap of Monday night’s events.
📺: ESPN pic.twitter.com/jpB3T2dkBz
— NFL (@NFL) September 18, 2018
RIP me pic.twitter.com/z8QzbsrZ0T
— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) September 18, 2018