- The Denver Broncos are a -3 -120 or -3.5 -105 road favorite against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
- The Broncos were humiliated by the Miami Dolphins last week losing 70-20 as +6 road underdogs.
- The Bears were manhandled by the Kansas City Chiefs losing 41-10 as +11.5 road underdogs.
I’m a longtime jazz music aficionado and there’s a great quote that I’ve frequently used in a sports betting context. Actually, the quote has several variations which have been attributed to Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie among others. The quote:
‘Practice your scales, practice your scales, practice your scales. Then you can forget your scales.’
‘Learn your scales, practice your scales, live your scales. Then forget all of that and just play.’
The point is that once you have the theoretical foundation of your discipline down completely you can focus on creating music. Or in our case, on handicapping sports.
There’s another quote that relates to our discussion of this game, this time from one of my Las Vegas sports betting associates and now the resident golf guru at VSIN–Wes Reynolds. I’ve heard this concept articulated by others but none were as succinct as this:
‘Sometimes you’ve got to let the board speak to you.’
All of the above apply to what we’re doing here. For starters, we’re ‘letting the board speak to us’. This is a matchup of two 0-3 teams coming off double digit losses. The game is at Chicago’s Soldier Field yet the Broncos opened as a -1.5 point road favorite and have been taking money ever since. That’s significant and this is certainly the first time that a NFL team that allowed 70 points in Week 4 was a road favorite in Week 5. It speaks volumes that Denver is a road favorite here–and it speaks volumes that Chicago is a home underdog here.
Coaching is also a huge factor. Denver is coached by Sean Peyton who has a career regular season record of 152-91 (.626) with a Super Bowl win and several ‘Coach of the Year’ awards in 2006 and 2009. Chicago coach Matt Eberflus has a career record of 3-17 (.150). Eberflus is by all accounts a very good defensive coordinator but in Chicago his defense is banged up and ranked at the bottom of most statistical categories. They also have the worst line play–on both sides of the ball–of any NFL team. Chicago is on a 1-16 SU/4-13 ATS run in their last 17 games and have lost 13 straight SU. Justin Fields doesn’t seem to be developing and has the #32 passing rating in the league. The Bears are so bad that Fields’ continued struggles aren’t the biggest problem facing this team. Then again, Denver’s Russell Wilson with the #8 QB rating in the NFL might as well be Patrick Mahomes by comparison.
The Chicago and national NFL media are strongly suggesting that Eberflus is already on the ‘hot seat’ and he’s in desperation mode. There’s also talk that another poor offensive showing in this matchup will result in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy being fired and/or starting QB Fields being benched in favor of undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent. Eberflus is quickly painting himself into a corner. He’s got a rep as a defensive guru but his defense is horrible. The offense is also bad, but he can drop that at the feet of Fields and/or Getsy. Rumors are already swirling that Eberflus could sooner or later be replaced by former Bears and current Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive coordinator Sean Desai who is now considered a rising star.
Occasionally, you’ll see a head coach on the ‘hot seat’ respond and turn things around but not often. When they do, they’re holding significantly stronger cards than the 2-7 offsuit that Eberflus is holding here. That leaves us with a head coach that is under serious pressure and little to suggest that he’s capable of turning the situation around. A coach that is dependent on a struggling quarterback who is under similar pressure, playing for a struggling offensive coordinator–once again with nothing to suggest that they’re capable of dealing with this pressure and/or turning the situation around.
Over on the Denver sideline, first year coach Peyton has plenty of time to turn the situation around. He’s also got highly experienced and capable assistants led by offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi (18 years coaching experience) and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph (19 years experience). Before last week’s shelling by the best offense in football–on a pace to completely shatter all existing scoring records–the Broncos had been competitive in losses by 1 point to Las Vegas and 2 points to Washington. Chicago has three losses by double digits including a 31 point loss to Kansas City last week, leading to an average deficit of -19.5 PPG. With his resume, Peyton has at least a year and possibly two before his ‘seat’ will even get warm.
Chicago is just on another level of ‘bad’ than Denver. The Broncos can still turn their season around with a pair of back to back winnable games (they play the hapless Jets at home next week) before a matchup at Kansas City (Broncos have covered L4 against KC) and then a bye week. Denver might not be a contender, but they’ve at least got some competent pros on their roster and in their coaching staff. They’re not going take last week’s embarrassment lightly and they’re facing the perfect ‘bounce back’ opponent. Peyton is 8-2 ATS on the road after back to back SU losses while Eberflus is 0-8 ATS against opponents off of back to back losses and 0-6 ATS against sub-.500 opponents. The latter stat is particularly concerning since it suggests that the Bears are a ‘measuring stick’ of the wrong kind–losing teams can take out frustrations on the Bears and take solace that their team isn’t a complete basket case. Broncos by double digits.