New York Jets (10-4, 8-6 ATS) at Chicago Bears (10-4, 7-6-1 ATS) NFL Week 16, Sunday December 26th, 1:00PM Eastern Soldier Field Chicago, I.L.
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: NYJ +1/CHI -1
Over/Under Total: 36.5
The Chicago Bears took down the NFC North on Monday night by blasting the Minnesota Vikings 40-14. The Bears will attempt to continue their success this Sunday as they host the New York Jets at Solider Field. If the Bears continue to win, they will have a chance to earn home field advantage through the opening rounds of the postseason. However, the Jets are riding a confidence boost as well after a big win on the road in Pittsburgh over the Steelers 22-17. Even though the Jets hold the exact same record as the Bears at 10-4, they have still not clinched a spot in the playoffs. Therefore, the Jets will have plenty of motivation this Sunday as they attempt to lock up their trip to the postseason as well.
Before their meeting with the Steelers, the Jets were in a slump offensively and had dropped two straight losses. In fact, the offense was held out of the end zone in both of those games. However, the Jets quickly found the end zone last week when Brad Smith returned the opening kickoff for 97 yards to end the Jets touchdown drought. WR Braylon Edwards also helped spark the offense by catching 8 passes for 100 yards. The 100 yard receiving performance marked Edwards’s biggest game of the season. If the Jets get Edwards back to producing those numbers on offense, it would really pick up the offense going forward the remainder of the season.
Jets QB Mark Sanchez also ended his struggles at least for one game last week. Sanchez had thrown 4 interceptions over the last two games, but bounced back to complete 19 of 29 passing for 170 yards against that extremely tough Steelers defense. A lot of pressure will be on Sanchez to perform as the team goes forward mainly because the Jets rushing attack has been stuck in neutral. Despite averaging 141 yards per game on the ground, neither LaDainian Tomlinson nor Shonn Greene has eclipsed the 70 yard mark in rushing over the last 5 games. Both backs have been fairly effective splitting carries, but neither back is posting some of the big numbers as they did earlier in the year. Therefore, I believe the play of Sanchez will be a huge determining factor of how far the Jets can go for the rest of the season.
Outside of the offense, the Jets defense has been one of the top units in the AFC this season. The Jets have allowed just 298 total yards and 18.5 points per game this season. Outside of the blowout loss to New England, the defense has only allowed one other opponent (Houston) to score more than 20 points. The Jets defense will get to lineup against a Bears offense that has been both embarrassing and explosive at times. QB Jay Cutler has completed just 52% passing over the last 2 games while also giving up 3 picks. Cutler has taken over the curse of the Chicago quarterbacks that have been hugely inconsistent. On the season, Cutler has completed 61% passing for 2,893 yards with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
One of the arguments surround the passing game is that the Bears do not have a “go to” guy at the wide receiver position which has added to those inconsistency troubles. WR Johnny Knox leads the team with 868 receiving yards with 3 touchdowns. Outside of Knox, former Vanderbilt teammate of Jay Cutler, Earl Bennett is 2nd on the team in receiving with just 547 receiving yards. While Knox has produced decent numbers, he still has not been the huge threat that the Bears need to become a dynamic offense. As a result the Bears offense has been fairly balanced behind running back Matt Forte who has posted 865 rushing yards this season.
However, the running attack will face a tough challenge in attempting to move the football against the New York rush defense. Therefore, the Bears will need a solid effort from their defense and get things moving through the air on offense. The Chicago defense has given up just 310 yards on average this year so they are a tough group to move the football against as well. Considering both offenses’ tendencies to be inconsistent, this game could turn out to be a battle between both defenses and how well they win the field position battle to put their offense in position to score points.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Jets defense is playing really well, but the offense simply is not. If the Jets would not have returned the kickoff back and got an early jump on the Steelers last week that game could have turned out very differently. However, I expect the Jets defense to be the story again this week in a low scoring grudge match. The Bears got 5 turnovers to post their 40 points last week with the help of Devin Hester who returned 1 punt for a touchdown and setup another score with a 79 yard kick return. Therefore, the Bears offense did not exactly produce the bulk of their points but rather Minnesota turnovers and special teams mistakes led to their demise. Both offense struggle here and the under has great value. My wager is on the UNDER 36.5.