Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys (-7.5, 44.5 o/u)
It’s shaping up to be a long year for the Chicago Bears (0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS). Already two games back of the Vikings in the NFC North, the Bears are now down their starting QB for the foreseeable future and have to hit the road with Brian Hoyer under center. This Sunday night (8:30 PM Eastern), Da Bears will meet Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys (1-1 SU, 1-0-1 ATS) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Chicago has played one encouraging half of football in the first two weeks, jumping out to a 14-10 halftime lead on Houston in the opener. That game turned on a muffed snap in the second-half and its been downhill for the Bears ever since. They got blanked in the final 30 minutes by the Texans, falling 23-14, and then were routed by rookie Carson Wentz and the Eagles in their home-opener, 29-14.
It hasn’t been a banner start for new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. His unit is averaging just 14 PPG, fourth-last in the league through two weeks. The stats on the defensive side of the ball are a little more promising with the Bears sitting eighth in total yards. But that’s thanks, in part, to turnovers giving opponents short fields.
Injuries are beginning to mount already for Chicago. Not only will the team be down to Hoyer (9-12, 78 yards, zero touchdowns in Week 2) at QB, stud receiver Alshon Jeffery (nine receptions, 201 yards through two games) is battling a knee injury. He sat out Thursday’s practice but may still dress on Sunday.
If Jeffrey is at all slowed, Chicago will need a big day from second-year man Kevin White (seven receptions, 70 yards) and veteran Eddie Royal (eight receptions, 109 yards, one touchdown) on the outside.
They’ll also need Jeremy Langford (28 carries, 85 yards, two touchdowns) to muster more than the three yards-per-carry he’s currently averaging on the year.
The bright spot for Chicago is that they’ll be facing a weaker defense this Sunday. The numbers for Dallas’ D aren’t terrible – 17th in total yards – but they are missing key players (Rolando McClain, Randy Gregory, etc.) and have basically no pass rush. In reality, the unit played over its head by limiting the Giants to 20 points in Week 1 (a 20-19 home loss) and Washington to 23 in Week 2 (a 27-23 road win).
On O, things are looking up for Big D. Week 1 featured the growing pains you’d expect from a rookie QB and running back. Week 2 already brought progress. Prescott was 22/30 for 292 yards. He didn’t find the end zone with his arm, but ran for a major and didn’t turn the ball over.
While Ezekiel Elliott put the ball on the turf twice, he was also able to find some space on the ground – unlike Week 1. The former Buckeye ran for 83 yards on 21 carries.
The best news to come out of Week 2 for Dallas was the Prescott was able to get on the same page with Dez Bryant. The beastly receiver had seven catches for 110 yards against Washington. That was just a bit better than his numbers from the previous week: one catch for eight yards. Dallas will need their best player to be just that if they’re going to stay in contention until Tony Romo is ready to re-take the reins of the offense (circa Week 8).
Dallas is getting a lot of love from bettors after its Week 2 win. But, as usual, “America’s team” is being overbet and the line is higher than it ought to be. The Cowboys are 0-3-2 ATS in their last five at home and I expect that to continue. Hoyer is a serviceable NFL backup and there’s not much difference between the talent levels on these two teams – save for the Dallas o-line, but even it hasn’t lived up to its hype this year.
I don’t see Chicago coming away with a win, but the Bears and the points looks like the better value.
Pick: Chicago +7.5.
Photo credit: Mike Morbeck (flickr) CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.