Dallas Cowboys (8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. Chicago Bears (5-7 SU, 5-7 ATS)
College Football Week 14
Date and Time: December 4th, 5:25 PM EST
Where: Soldier Field
TV: NFL Network
by Jeff Hochman, Pro Football Handicapper, JHSportsline.com
Point Spread: Dal -3.5/CHI +3.5
Over/Under Total: 51
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The Dallas Cowboys will look to remain perfect on the road, when they travel to Chicago in this Week 14 Thursday night matchup. Dallas lost to the Eagles on Thanksgiving 33-10 as 3-point home chalk. They looked lethargic on both sides of the ball and were outgained 464-267. The Bears were also flattened on Thanksgiving, losing 34-17 as 7-point road underdogs at Detroit. Chicago had a lead early at 14-3, but too many penalties and big passing plays led to the Lions comeback. The Bears secondary will surely be tested in this contest.
Tony Romo should benefit from a normal week of rest for his surgically repaired back, which didn’t appear to respond very well to the first quick turnaround (4 days) since the December procedure to fix a herniated disk. The second injury to his back against Washington surely didn’t help the situation. The Cowboys should rely on their offensive line and running game. Dallas has the No. 1 ranked run-blocking offensive line in all of football while the Bears run-blocking defense is ranked No. 19. Dallas might want to limit Romo’s pass attempts as the Bears have recorded 29 sacks in 12 games. On the flip side, Dallas has tallied just 18 sacks for the entire season. The Cowboys defense has gotten progressively worse as the season has worn on. Jay Cutler should have plenty of time to throw the ball down-field, while mixing some some draws and screens with Matt Forte. The Cowboys are ranked No. 21 against the run and Forte has given Dallas problems in the past, averaging 5.1 yards per carry in 2013 and 4.0 ypc in 2012.
The Cowboys cover-two will not work against Alshon Jeffrey, Brandon Marshall, and Martellus Bennett. Dallas has always had trouble with taller receivers. Dallas has been playing a lot of zone coverage and they are not very good at it, to say the least. If they don’t try to change things up and maybe blitz one in a while they will have a better shot to win this game. The Cowboys are ranked in the bottom third at QB pressures so most of their opponents are throwing from a clean pocket. Jay Cutler can be very successful with no defenders in his face. The Key will be the Cowboys’ offensive line who are ranked No. 20th in sacks allowed. Tony Romo needs time to find Dez Bryant and company, off those play-action fakes that have worked so well up until a few weeks ago. The Bears are ranked 30th in passing defense so the Cowboys might have to abandoned the run and start throwing the ball early and often. Chicago is solid against the run ranking No. 11 in yards allowed per game. It should be an interesting chess match between two head coaches who desperately need a win.
The Cowboys will have a huge edge in special teams play. Dallas is ranked No. 13 while the Bears are ranked No. 31 according to Football Outsiders. That’s a giant gap and starting field position could be the key to winning or losing this game. Another key area to look at in this game will be red-zone efficiency where both teams are ranked in the Top 7. The Bears covert 64.86% of the time while the Cowboys convert 64.71%. The weather should favor the home team as they have played many more cold weather games than the visitor. The Bears are essentially playing its Super Bowl in front of a national TV audience. All the pressure to win is on the road team and they play the Eagles next week. Another loss and the Cowboys could spiral down-hill to a fourth straight 8-8 record.
Dallas is 16-9 SU and 8-17 ATS as a favorite over the last three seasons. Dallas is 4-8 ATS when favored by 3.5 or more points off a 20+ point loss. The Bears are 6-2 ATS as home underdogs in Weeks 13 through 17 off a SU loss.
Jeff’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread:Chicago Bears +3.5
This is a very tough game and the line seems right. The Underdog is 26-7 ATS in the last 33 Cowboy games, including 8-4 ATS this season. I will lean to the home underdog.