Chicago Bears (8-6SU, 6-8 ATS) vs. Arizona Cardinals (5-9 SU, 6-8 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date/Time: December 23, 4:25pm ET
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium
byEvergreen,Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Chi -5.5/AZ +5.5
Over/Under Total: 36.5
There are a lot of NFL teams with Christmas wish lists that include a week 16 win and one of those teams is the Chicago Bears.The Bears head to Phoenix to take on the Arizona Cardinals in what is now a must win for Chicago if they want to make the Playoffs.A division crown is out of the picture for the Bears after a loss to Green Bay last week but a Wildcard is still possible but the playoffs essentially start now as a loss would have them all but eliminated.The Cards are fresh off a 38-10 win against Detroit but their season went south as they lost nine straight after a 4-0 start.Arizona will be taking a look at Ryan Lindleys potential again this week, this time against a tough Bears defense, and surely wouldnt mind welcoming Chicago to the group of 2012 also-rans.
The online betting sites like Chicago as a 5.5 point favorite and have set the over/under total for the game at 36.5.That total is pretty low by NFL standards but we are dealing with the 29thand 32ndranked offenses in terms of total yards gained and both teams possess good defenses.Both teams are looking to break some trends as Chicago is 1-5 against the spread in their last six games overall and just 1-6 ATS against NFC opponents with Arizona netting just one ATS win in their last five home games.
The Bears enter the week losers in three straight and have dropped five of the last six overall.The latest three have been particularly painful as all were decided by eight points or less including an overtime loss against Seattle.A win in any one of those would have blood pressures much lower in the Windy City but now the Bears face the prospect of potentially missing the playoffs after a 7-1 start.
The Bears wont get any sympathy from the Cardinals however as Arizonas 2012 season featured an even more impressive nosedive.The Cards were the darlings of the NFC after starting 4-0 but injuries and poor play turned wide-eyed optimism into another disappointing season for Cardinals fans.They did look good in trouncing the Lions last week but Detroit was likely mailing it in and really hadnt looked good during their latest stretch of poor play.Ryan Lindley will look to show some signs of life and earn a roster spot for next year against a really strong defense but he will need help from his running game as it is not likely that 104 yards passing will net another win for him.
This game will be all about the defenses as both rank in the top-6 in pass yards allowed and neither allow more than 335 total yards per game.The Bears are more efficient and are giving up just 17.1 points per game but the Cardinals arent far back at 21.6 and do have the healthier defense at this point.Arizona has a few depth chart injury notes but nothing to key players and Tim Jennings remains questionable for Chicago with a shoulder injury. On the offensive side, the Bears expect WR Earl Bennett back for Sunday which could help out Jay Cutler and the leagues 28th ranked passing offense.
Cutler is the likely the MVP in Chicago as the Bears simply cant win without him but he needs to do something big in the last couple of games to propel this team.A sub-60% completion rate isnt going to win too many games and he now faces the fourth ranked pass defense in the NFL.Brandon Marshall has beaten just about every DB to the tune of 107 catches for 1,398 yards and 10 scores but he draws Patrick Petersen and his 7 interceptions.Calvin Johnson had a good game against this defense last week but the Cards also picked Stafford on three occasions and Cutler hasnt been too careful with the ball this year on the way to 14 interceptions.Arizona has just the 28thranked rush defense so expect the gameplan to feature Matt Forte and Michael Bush as much as possible and that alone might be Chicagos best strategy to limit the turnovers that have killed them in their close losses.
Would anyone really hold it against me if I simply stated that Arizonas offense is bad and moved on?Im kidding but not really as the Cardinals are dead last in rushing yards, total yards and second to last at 16 points per game, and thats after putting up 38 last week.No one should ever feel sorry for an NFL player but Larry Fitzgerald has been turned into a sympathetic figure as he has been relegated to a possession receiver with no QB.Beanie Wells is back and healthy but the running back is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry and that doesnt look to improve against the tough Bears defense.Maybe Lindley gets something going against and beats a blitz happy defense and maybe Wells finds a way to grind out enough yards to keep the chains going but I just dont see a ton of points out there for this offense.
So, where do we go with this one?I fully expect Chicago to play with some sort of desperation as they have to know that heads will roll if they stink up the joint and miss the playoffs.Arizona will be pesky but they havent fared well against a team that is more talented than them since the New England stunner and that was in September.The Bears do tend to beat the teams that they should and Chicago should be able to move the ball on the ground and with some play-action enough to put up 21 points on the board.That leaves Arizona responsible for getting to 16 to win with the points and I think they’ll do exactly just that. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Cardinals win this game straight up. The NFL is a what have you done for me lately league and a team is only as good as it’s last few games. While the Bears may be more talented on paper, they’re not winning games and I don’t expect this to turnaround on the road much less.
EvergreensPick to Cover the Point Spread: Arizona plus the points. I think Cutler’s negative attitude negatively affects the team’s chemistry. I also think the Bears suffer from both offensive and defensive line issues, which is a seriously underrated variable by people when handicapping a game. Go Cards!
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