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Bears-Packers: To bet or not to bet

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

September 28, 2017 08:22 AM

Are you ready for some “side-by-side” football?! The NFL brings us another divisional rivalry as the Chicago Bears visit the Green Bay Packers Thursday night. That will start just after Texas at Iowa State in college football on ESPN. A sneak peek at key numbers, plus the latest from the Westgate SuperContest right now in VSiN City!

NFL: Sluggish Bears’ offense hopes to hang tough with hated Packers
The NFL TV braintrust knows that divisional matchups are likely to bring peak intensity for Thursday night telecasts. That’s why a good audience is expected for this week’s renewal of the ancient Bears/Packers blood rivalry. Is it a good game to BET? 

Chicago (1-2) at Green Bay (2-1)
Las Vegas Line: Green Bay by 7, total of 45.5
Estimated Market Power Ratings: Chicago 76, Green Bay 80 (w/injuries)  

This line would have been much higher before the Packers were saddled with so many injuries teamwide. They were priced very respectfully in Power Ratings and futures odds right at the start of the season. There were market concerns that Chicago would be a doormat with Mike Glennon quarterbacking, which would lead to Mitchell Trubisky eventually getting the call. You’ll recall that Chicago was plus 6.5 points at home in its season opener vs. Atlanta…which would have been around plus 9 on a neutral field, and maybe as high as plus 12 in Atlanta. Green Bay entered the 2017 with respect similar to Atlanta’s. So, Packers -7 is a noticeable downward adjustment.

There haven’t been many calls for Trubisky just yet, with a near-miss upset of Atlanta, and an overtime victory over Pittsburgh. Though the Bears covered those two point spreads (2-1 ATS for the season counting a bad loss at Tampa Bay), the offense has struggled…

  • Chicago only managed 4.8 yards-per play vs. Atlanta
  • Chicago only managed 5.0 yards-per-play at Tampa Bay, with 4 turnovers
  • Chicago only managed 4.9 yards-per-play vs. Pittsburgh, with 2 turnovers

Betting on the Bears means you’re crossing your fingers that they can stay close without a reliable scoring attack. Betting on the Packers means you’re laying a touchdown with a shorthanded team that had to rally to force overtime last week against the disappointing (and possibly imploding) Bengals. 

Let’s look at a few key indicator stats…

Key Passing Stats 

  • Chicago: 5.7 yards-per-pass attempt, 3 TD’s, 3 interceptions thrown
  • Green Bay: 7.2 yards-per-pass attempt, 6 TD’s, 3 interceptions thrown

Both teams got to face Atlanta’s vulnerable defense. Green Bay has it tougher otherwise because Seattle was in its mix. But no mysteries coming in about who has the superior quarterback! TD/INT ratios last season were 40/8 for the Packers, 19/19 for the Bears. Even banged up last week, Green Bay’s passing line was 28-42-1-280. You have to assume they win the air battle. 

Impact Defense 
Chicago: 46% third down pct-allowed, 3 takeaways, 7 sacks
Green Bay: 34% third down pct-allowed, 2 takeaways, 9 sacks

Neither team has been good at forcing turnovers, as those are low totals through three total games. Green Bay’s obviously much better at preventing opponents from moving the chains. That might be the tie-breaker ultimately. Green Bay’s veteran quarterback should still be able to get key first downs against this Chicago defense. Handicappers have to determine if -7 accurately captures Rodgers’ advantage in this area. It will likely take Bears' turnovers to push the victory margin higher. Such turnovers were prevalent in Chicago’s other road game...but the Packers haven’t been forcing many miscues yet.

Tough call at this price. Be sure you watch VSiN programming throughout the day Thursday for more insights from our show hosts and special guests! We’ll have a stat recap for you Friday morning. 

College Football: Texas at Iowa State will teach us a lot about BOTH teams
It’s hard to know for sure what we have Thursday night in a potentially exciting Big 12 matchup featuring the Texas Longhorns and Iowa State Cyclones. Both are capable of excellent outings:

  • Texas took USC to overtime in a heartbreaking loss two Saturdays ago
  • Iowa State recently lost in overtime to Iowa, who took Penn State to the wire last week

Penn State and USC faced each other in the Rose Bowl last season…and there are surprisingly few degrees of separation from that game to this Thursday night TV matchup. 

That said, Texas looked horrible in its season opener vs. Maryland, and is far from a sure thing to excel offensively on the road. Iowa State has faced a weak schedule outside of the Hawkeyes (Northern Iowa and Akron, #116 and #141 in Jeff Sagarin’s current computer ratings at USA Today). Are they ready for the athleticism Texas will bring?

Sagarin actually has Texas (#29) very close to Iowa (#31) in his computer ratings. And, Iowa was -3.5 on this field in the season opener, compared to Texas at -4.5 tonight. That gives us a same-site “similar” quality opponent to judge via boxscore… 

Iowa 44, Iowa State 41 (in overtime)

  • Regulation Score: Iowa 38, Iowa State 38
  • Total Yardage: Iowa 497, Iowa State 467
  • Yards-per-Play: Iowa 6.1, Iowa State 6.5
  • Third Down Pct: Iowa 47%, Iowa State 29%
  • Turnovers: Iowa 0, Iowa State 1
  • Penalties: Iowa 10/84, Iowa State 2/15
  • TD Drive Lengths: Iowa 76-91-94-92-89-25 in OT, Iowa State 60-75-7-58-65-83

What jumps out there is how easily Iowa moved the ball when not committing penalties. Yards and points were just there for the taking. That’s 472 yards in regulation, while posting 6.1 YPP as they moved the chains at almost a 50% clip. How about four TD drives of more than 89 yards?! 

Iowa State also made some big plays, and put points on the board. But it wasn’t as smooth based on the poor third down rate and overall quarterback efficiency. Iowa only had 14 incomplete passes on 41 tosses with no picks. Iowa State had 21 incomplete passes on 46 tosses with one interception. When it came down to winning the game, Iowa State’s inconsistency led to a field goal, while Iowa marched right into the end zone for a victory. 

Is Texas really as good as Iowa? That’s a tougher call. The Longhorns have a knack for making humans and computers think they’re better than they are. The good showing at USC may have been more about USC being overconfident and overrated rather than the Horns finding themselves. And, it’s not like Texas was setting the scoreboard on fire most of the night.

First Score: INT return TD with 19 seconds left in first half
Second Score: FG five minutes into the third quarter
Third Score: Offensive TD with 45 seconds left in the game

Texas didn’t score an offensive touchdown until the final minute of regulation. Given the new faces in play (freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger playing for new head coach Tom Herman), that dramatic, impressive drive, and the subsequent OT touchdown might have signaled the Longhorns getting things figured out just before they take the world by storm. (In Burnt Orange country, it’s assumed Herman is definitely going to take the world by storm at some point!). 

But can you trust a new system...with new leaders...to lay 4.5 points on the road in front of a loud prime time crowd? Might be best to learn from this game for future reference. Texas is about to tell us a lot about how they’ll perform vs. mid-level challenges in the Big 12. Do you think they’re as good as Iowa? Better? Answer that question and the pick makes itself.  

Westgate SuperContest: Official lines mostly in sync with Wednesday prices
Brent Musburger kicks off “My Guys in the Desert” every Wednesday afternoon live from the Westgate to present the official contest lines for the prestigious SuperContest handicapping competition. As oddsmaker John Murray ran through the numbers with Brent, it was clear that the Westgate wasn’t veering much off its actual lines that were already on the betting board.

Here’s a look at the contest lines in Nevada Rotation order. We’ll note the three that were slightly different from regular betting at the time. 

Green Bay -7 vs. Chicago (Thursday)
New Orleans -3 vs. Miami (in London, England)
New England -9 vs. Carolina
Dallas -6.5 vs. LA Rams
Minnesota -2.5 vs. Detroit (assumption that Keenum starts)
Tennessee -1.5 at Houston
Jacksonville -3.5 at the NY Jets
Cincinnati -3 at Cleveland
Pittsburgh -3 at Baltimore
Atlanta -7.5 vs. Buffalo (was -8 in the Westgate sports book)
Tampa Bay -3 vs. the NY Giants
LA Chargers -1.5 vs. Philadelphia
Arizona -6.5 vs. San Francisco (was -7 in the Westgate sports book)
Denver -2.5 vs. Oakland
Seattle -13 vs. Indianapolis
Kansas City -6.5 vs. Washington (Monday Night, was -7 in Westgate sports book)

Remember that contestants must pick their best FIVE against those numbers. Any contestant who wants to include the Thursday nighter featuring the Bears and Packers must turn in ALL FIVE picks before that kickoff. 

John Murray explained to Brent that the Westgate anticipated sharp interest on underdogs Buffalo, San Francisco, and Washington. That would suggest moves on the regular board in those directions between now and the weekend. Remember, Jeff Sherman of the Westgate told us last week “We do the numbers in the SuperContest as we would book the games.”

So, if you like those dogs for your personal bets…you might want to bet sooner rather than later before the market moves against you. 

Another interesting dynamic with the Minnesota Vikings this week…as the Westgate must put up a contest number without knowing whether Sam Bradford or Case Keenum will get the call. Last week’s use of Tampa Bay -3 ultimately proved to be more pessimistic than the market about Keenum. Very late respected sharp money moved that like down to pick-em just before kickoff. Our estimate of “market” Power Ratings Tuesday suggested Minnesota with Keenum -3 over Detroit, and -6 with Bradford. You can see the Westgate went with Vikings -2.5. A clear reaction from the Westgate to that late steam (and the blowout result), as Tampa Bay wouldn’t be seen as 5.5-points better than Detroit on a neutral field. 

Best of luck to all of you in the contest! Note that a $15,000 prize will be awarded to the leader (or split between tied leaders) after this week. That’s a special “four-week” reward the Westgate instituted this season for the hottest starters. 

MLB: Cubs Win! The Twins are In!  
The Chicago Cubs became the fifth of six divisional champions in the 2017 Major League Baseball season Wednesday night with a 5-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. That locked up the NL Central. 

The only division still in play in the Majors is the AL East, where Boston leads the New York Yankees by three games with four to play after both won their games Wednesday night. 

In the AL Wildcard race, Minnesota backed into the final AL Wildcard spot despite a loss in Cleveland when the Los Angeles Angels fell to the Chicago White Sox 6-4 in 10 innings. Minnesota will visit the NY Yankees in the AL play-in game next week.

Colorado is starting to put some distance between themselves and the only two challengers for the NL Wildcard. 

NL Wildcard Race
Colorado 86-73
Milwaukee 83-75
St. Louis 82-76

Colorado must finish the season with a three-game set at home vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers. The visitors have already made it clear they’ll be resting some starters in advance of the playoffs…including going with bullpen pitchers only on Sunday. The Rockies aren’t a lock…but they’re a virtual lock to qualify for the final WC spot behind Arizona. Colorado’s magic number is “2.” 

Milwaukee finishes the season at St. Louis, where both teams can commiserate together on missed opportunities.

Composite offshore odds to win the 2017 World Series
LA Dodgers: 3/1
Cleveland: 4/1
Houston: 5/1
Washington 7/1
Chicago Cubs 7/1
Boston: 15/2
NY Yankees: 14/1
Arizona: 14/1
Colorado: 28/1
Minnesota: 33/1
Milwaukee: 50/1
St. Louis: 80/1

Back with you Friday to run the key stats from Bears/Packers and Texas/Iowa State. We’ll also preview the big Friday night doubleheader on ESPN featuring Miami at Duke and USC at Washington State. If you haven’t already signed up for this FREE VSiN City weekday newsletter, you can do that by clicking here. Subscribers also get access to those very handy and easy-to-use betting sheets from the South Point.

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