Chicago Bears (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) vs. New Orleans Saints (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS), 1:00 p.m. EST, Week 2 NFL, Sunday, September 18, 2011, Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, La., TV: FOX
by Badger, National Football League Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Chi +6.5/N.O. -6.5
Over/Under Total: 47
The Chicago Bears will try and keep the momentum from their season opening victory going on the road when they travel down to the Big Easy of New Orleans to take on the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome in a week two NFC clash.
The Bears turned a lot of heads in the NFC in their opener with an impressive, 30-12, upset of the much more talked about Atlanta Falcons. Jay Cutler was effective with 312 yards and two touchdowns, and the Bears defense did its best “Monsters of the Midway” impression by forcing the normally reliable Falcons offense into three turnovers, one of which was returned for a score in the blowout.
With the exception of giving up 42 points to the Packers in the NFL kickoff opener, the New Orleans Saints actually played a great game in the 42-34 loss. The Saints rolled up 477 yards of total offense and had a shot to tie it at the end of the game, despite giving up 42 points and looking like they were going to get run out of Lambeau Field early in the game, so the Saints can relax in knowing that they are just a few minor tweeks away from where they are expecting to be at the end.
The oddsmakers out in Las Vegas must be thinking the same thing about the Saints too, considering most sportsbooks are listing New Orleans as high as 7-point favorites at home in the Superdome on Sunday. It’s either that or the fact that oddsmakers still don’t think the Bears are for real, because you know the Bears locker room will be feeding off the “disrespect” as touchdown underdogs for motivation this week just like they did last week as underdogs at home versus Atlanta in the opener.
The over/under total opened at 47 and has hovered around the 47 to 46.5 mark the entire week since it was released.
Both offenses were potent last week with 34- and 30-point outputs in their 2011 debuts, but while the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees are expected to reach that level on a weekly basis the Bears and Cutler are not.
Against the Bears the Saints will need to establish a better running game than they did in the opener against the Packers (81 yards, 3.8 ypc), especially in short-yardage situations. If they don’t the Bears will just sit back in that cover-2 shell on defense and make Brees dink-n-dunk his way down the field, something Brees has proven he’s capable of doing to carry his team, but something you don’t want to have to do every week if you can help it.
The Saints could have some success running if they stick with it, since the Falcons were very successful running on the Bears defense in the opener (110 yards, 7.85 ypc), they just fell behind too quickly in the second half and abandoned the run in order to play catch-up on the scoreboard.
The Bears offense was good enough in the opener, but it’s no secret that the team feeds off its defense. With the young o-line the Bears are still finding their way in the running game (88 yards, 3.2 ypc in opener), the Bears will rely on field position and turnovers more than ever before under Lovie Smith on offense this season.
But Cutler does seem to be more comfortable in coordinator Mike Martz’s scheme this season, so his handle at the line of scrimmage appears to have improved after suffering quite a bit of embarrassment in the NFC title game last year.
How well Cutler, new center Roberto Garza and the rest of the Bears young offensive line handle the blitz-happy Saints defense on check-offs and audible will be crucial on Sunday, because once the Saints made halftime adjustments they were successful at getting to Aaron Rodgers last week (2 sacks) with the blitz. Plus, the young Bears line gave up five sacks to the Falcons in the opener, so there’s plenty of opportunities for the Saints defense to try and exploit, especially inside the Superdome where the hometown crowd and the carpet always seem to make the Saints defense play a step faster.
One thing the Chicago Bears do have going in their favor is history, as in they have owned the Saints since the 3005 season. Not only have the Bears won all four meetings between these two since that year, including a 27-24 overtime win at home in the last one in 2008, but they’ve also gone 2-0-2 ATS in those same four game to cash in a lot of winning tickets for bettors.
The over is also a perfect 4-0 during the same four-game span.
The only problem with those betting trends is that all but one of those games were played outside in Soldier Field in November and December, except for the Bears 20-17 win in the Superdome in 2005. This will be the fourth game in the Superdome in the head-to-head series, and the Saints are 2-1 SU and 2-0-1 ATS in the previous three.
Chicago does have a few strong betting trends in their favor, including a 4-1 ATS mark in their last five against an NFC opponent and a 4-1 ATS mark as a road underdog in their last five trips. The Saints don’t play all that well as the chalk either, going 1-4 ATS in their last five as favorites.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Bears are not built to play on turf, which really scares me in this matchup, but there are enough other intangibles that are making me lean toward Chicago in this game. I watched both teams play in their openers and the Saints are NOT a full touchdown better than the Bears right now. Maybe in 17 weeks, but not this early in the season. I’m on the underdog Bears here to cover plus the 6.5-points.
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