Chicago Bears (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS) vs. Carolina Panthers (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS)
NFL Week 5
Date and Time: Sunday, October 5 - 1pm ET
Where: Bank of America Stadium
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CHI +2.5/CAR -2.5
Over/Under Total: 45.5
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Two wins and two losses has been a popular start for many teams in the NFL this year and two teams with that record square off this Sunday as the Chicago Bears travel to take on the Carolina Panthers. As odd as it sounds, the Bears might be happy to take the trip as they are undefeated on the road in 2014 while dropping both contests at home. Neither team is quite living up to expectations this year so the winner of this one might look back at this game as the one that swung their season to the playoffs or to an early exit.
The online betting sites are in agreement on this one with the Panthers listed as 2.5 point favorites. There hasnt been any movement of that line in early action so expect that spread to remain and the over/under total is running at 45 and a half. There have been 133 games since 2003 that finished with a 2.5 point final line with the favorite managing a 68-65 record straight up but only a 59-74 mark against the spread. These teams are very close in the Sagarin ratings with Chicago clocking in at 18th, two spots ahead of Carolina.
Chicago is coming off a pretty dismal loss last week after laying a bit of an egg in a 38-17 loss to the Packers. The offense was productive, especially early, but the defense had no answers for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers receivers. The Bear defense has been pretty vanilla to this point and just cant seem to make enough stops to take the pressure of the offense. They get a bit of a break as Carolina is ranked near the bottom in total yards and points scored and also have injury issues on offense.
Carolina was planning on being one of the best run teams in the league but have just been hammered with running back injuries. DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert are either out or very questionable to play this week, leaving Darrin Reaves to start by default. The Panthers added Chris Ogbonnaya on Monday for some depth and he will likely see the field as well. Cam Newton has been a productive runner through his career but has only 33 yards on eight carries in his three games. The Panther offense is definitely looking for some sort of consistent production.
I think the Chicago offense is the best unit on the field in this one. Matt Forte hasnt scored a touchdown yet but is one pace for over 1,800 scrimmage yards and is coming off his best game of the year. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are tough matchups, especially in the redzone, and Martellus Bennett has emerged as Jay Cutlers favorite target, leading the team with 29 catches for 295 yards. Carolina has struggled to stop the run, allowing 140 yards to the opposition on average and Forte should be in line to have another productive game. A good run game will keep the ball with Chicago and Cutler has played very well overall, throwing for ten touchdowns with a 94.7 overall QB rating. The defense will be looking to improve off last weeks effort but they have managed six interceptions and nine sacks so far.
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With all of the injuries on offense, it will be almost entirely up to Cam to get something going this Sunday. Kelvin Benjamin has proven to be a legit NFL target and leads the team with 21 catches for 329 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tight end Greg Olsen also has 21 grabs as Newtons safety valve but there havent been too many others stepping up to make plays for the Panthers. Chicago can be run against so dont discount the depleted backfield from having some success but it appears that Newton will be chucking it a bunch.
The Bears have shown the ability to be good and bad in the early going and I think they have a better chance of being the good version against a Panther defense that isnt as good as it was advertised to be. Chicago can scheme to take Benjamin away and make Newton go to lesser options or rely on the weakened running game. Either way, Chicago has a way to dictate some of the action and that is a pretty good indicator that this one will be close. Carolina will struggle to score points and Cutler will have another good game alongside Forte. I like the Bears for the outright upset this week but will gladly take the points as well. Chicago 26 Carolina 20
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Chicago