Arizona Cardinals (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) vs. Chicago Bears (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS)
NFL Week 2
Date/Time: September 20th, 1:00 PM E
Where: Solider Field
by Jeff Hochman, Professional Handicapper, jhsportsline.com
Point Spread: ARZ -2.5/ CHI +2.5
Over/Under Total: 44.5
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The Bears will be playing its second straight home game to begin the season, after losing to the Green Bay Packers 31-23 as 6-point dogs last Sunday. Chicago played well on both sides of the ball and had the Packers reeling a bit. The Bears outgained the Packers by 80 yards. Green Bay had an eight-point lead until an Eddie Lacy 2-yard rushing touchdown at the 1:55 mark of the 4th quarter. Chicago scored a touchdown with 34 seconds on the clock, but still failed to cover for all Bears’ bettors. Las Vegas and offshore books got buried as the public were backing the road favorite by 71%. Arizona defeated the Saints 31-19 as 2-point home chalk. They outgained New Orleans by just 19 yards. It was a five-point game with 6 minutes left. Arizona suffered a key injury at running back with Andre Ellington out 2-3 weeks with a PCL injury in his right knee. Ellington looked very explosive running and receiving before his injury.
Carson Palmer has been on fire of late. He is 7-0 SU and 6-1 ATS in his last seven starts. If he stays healthy, the Cardinals figure to be a winning team. The defense was stout against the run last week. The Saints rushed for 54 yards, although on just 20 carries. New Orleans threw the ball 48 times, despite trailing by only 11 points with 11:03 left on the clock in the second quarter. Drew Brees lit up the Cardinals’ secondary for 355 yards. John Fox and the Bears will look to take advantage of Matt Forte in the passing game. Forte exploded for 141 rushing yards against Green Bay, but will be facing a run defense that has allowed less than 75 yards per game on the ground over their last ten.
The Bears need Jay Cutler to complete a higher rate of passes if they want to win this game. Chicago figures to have less success on the ground than in last week’s loss. Jay Cutler completed 18-of-36 for 225 yards with one TD and one Interception. Arizona struggled with screens last week and I would expect the Bears to take advantage with Forte and Rodgers. Eddie Royal needs to step up this Week against a shaky secondary. He caught one pass for eight yards. Not good enough as the second receiver, especially with Alshon Jeffrey not feeling 100%. Patrick Peterson gets a lot of attention as a shut-down corner. That could not be further from the truth. While he’s certainly above average, Peterson has struggled when the Cardinals play a zone. His press coverage skills are very high, although he will give up some big plays.
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Under John Fox, the Bears figure to play with more passion than in year’s past. I saw more heart and grit in last Week’s loss than at anytime last year. Another thing that can’t be overlooked is game planning and schemes. Fox has always been one of the better coaches at identifying his opponents’ weakness and than creating a game plan that will exploit that. The offensive line played surprisingly well against a very good front seven. Chicago allowed two sacks while creating huge running lanes for Matt Forte. The Bears should blitz more and test the mobility of Carson Palmer. The defense allowed just 322 yards to Green Bay last week and should benefit from playing their second straight game at home. Green Bay will average more than 322 yards per game this season. That number was impressive, especially considering the Bears recorded zero sacks. Look for the defense to be fired up in this one. Not having to face Andre Ellington will help the Bears defend the pass. Look for the Bears to play a lot of two deep coverage. The Bears play mostly cover 2 which is identical. That means both safeties have deep coverage responsibility. Chicago should be able to stop the run with just their front seven.
The Cardinals are 13-2 SU and 11-3-1 ATS when the line is +3 to -3 over the last three seasons. The Bears are 7-12 SU and 6-12-1 ATS when the line is +3 to -3 during the same time frame. Arizona is a bankrolling 22-12 SU and 22-12 ATS in all games over the last three seasons. The Bears are 13-20 SU and 11-21-1 ATS in all games over the last three seasons. Based on those trends, the Public will be all over the road favorite. NFL handicapping doesn’t work that way. Those past trends are meaningless for this matchup.
Jeff’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Chicago Bears +2.5
Don’t overreact to last week’s results. The Cardinals are tough at home, but will have to work a little harder playing on natural grass. Arizona is just 8-9 SU on the road over the last three seasons. Arizona has a division game next Week against the 49ers. Possible look ahead. NFL home underdogs off a loss, playing their second straight home game with no rest do very well. Take the home dog in this mild upset.
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