- Current Lines
- ATS: Chicago Bears -2.5 (Opened Bears -4)
- Moneyline: Chicago Bears -136 / Cincinnati Bengals +116 (Opened Bears -151 / Bengals +128)
- Total: 45 (Opened 45)
- *Breakeven %
- **ATS: 52.4% (as always for each team)
- Moneyline: 57.6% Chicago Bears, 46.3% Cincinnati Bengals
- Total: 51.1% (either way)
- Last meeting: The Bears beat the Bengals on the road 33-7 in 2017
*Reminder: “Breakeven %” equates to, informally, how confident/probable you would need to be to bet that side, and get a fair/even bet (i.e. it helps bettors understand the pricing/payout/odds all at the same time).
**That extra 2.4 percentage points is the price you pay for a fair ATS bet
There are some respectable handicappers out there that would bet on the Bears blind in this contest, calling out the “0-1s want to be 1-1 and 1-0s want to be 1-1/tendency towards the middle” play. Which for what it’s worth, strictly macro-speaking I don’t fully disagree with the concept, but I also know this isn’t a play you should make in a vacuum. Nevertheless, this matchup bring us two of the (semi-rare) “young, yet not great” coaches (#28 v #23 ranked coach according to the Sharp Football Preseason Preview) in a duel between (hopefully) former Ohio State QBs (that transferred in opposite directions).
Zooming out, focusing on process when betting NFL early it’s important to properly weight last season’s information, solidifying priors and ensuring we don’t overreact to week one data. With that said, here’s how each side shapes out from a matchup perspective:
When the Bears have the ball (CIN Defense)
*Image and grades thanks to our friends at Pro Football Focus
Predicting the how well the Bears offense is likely to perform is really just an exercise in guessing when Justin Fields will start. Assuming that Ryan Pace/Matt Nagy believe Andy Dalton needs more than one game to qualify for “no we didn’t make a mistake, we really wanted Dalton all along, we just need a spark so we’re moving to field” excuse, we will assume Dalton starts here again. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Andy Dalton led the NFL in Week 1 in expected completion rate. That stat is usually a function of how well an OC scheme’s WRs open, yet after watching Dalton last week its likely just a product of how quickly he was getting the ball out of hand (2.44 time to throw, 3rd fastest), given he had a 23rd ranked “-2.4 CPOE (completion % over expectation)”.
There is a bit of an interesting matchup within the matchup here: granted we’re talking a sample size of one game, but despite the overall performances last week the Bears come in as the #2 ranked Run Offense by DVOA, and only the 25th Pass Offense. They will face the #2 ranked Run Defense / #24 Pass Defense of the Bengals. Clearly something has to give.
If, let’s just call it “The Bears QB” figures out a way to get the ball to WR Allen Robinson, there may be at least a chance for success, as Robinson comes in as 3rd best WR Matchup of the Week according to PFF’s WR/CB Tool. Nonetheless, the Bears offensive success literally depends on how likely Fields is to play (or even how many snaps he’s expected to take), so there’s not too much value in diving any deeper on this side of the ball.
When the Bengals have the ball (CHI Defense)
Did you know the Bengals, and HC Zac Taylor have led in 25 of his 33 games coached? And I’m not pointing that out to prove any type of regression is coming but to help support the claim, he may just not be that good of a coach. Good coaches close games and negate regressive forces.
From a scheme standpoint the Bengals are known for a couple things since the era of Taylor and Burrow started: 11 Personnel and Empty Formations where they were 2nd, and 3rd ranked in the league running in 2020 (trends that have continued into the 2021 season). And although the Bears Defense was strong last year, look at their splits by offensive personnel:
- Vs 11 Personnel: -2.9% DVOA
- Vs 12 Personnel: -15.7% DVOA
- Vs 21 Personnel: -12.6% DVOA
*Mind you negative DVOA is good for the defense. This split leaves me a little worried about a Bears defense that already has lost more pieces than they gained from 2020, going up against a team that runs a personnel that was a relative weakness for the unit.
- As a 2-point favorite or greater, the Bears had one win ATS (1-2) last season.
- The Bengals had an ATS record of 8-6 as underdogs of 2 points or greater last season.
Until we know that Justin Fields is playing/not playing its probably not a good idea to invest much for or against the Bears. However, if you must, assuming Dalton will start, given the matchup advantages the Bengals have, its probably best to take the Bengals at -2.
Pick: Bengals -2 ATS