The 26th ranked (by DVOA) Bears head to Pittsburgh to take on the 15th rated Steelers this Monday night. The Steelers (4-3) out-lasted the Browns last week, whereas the Bears (3-5) lost a “U-Shaped” game vs the 49ers. The divisional win by the Steelers resulted in the second highest increase in playoff likelihood (now at 48.4%) for the week, while the Bears loss all but knocked them out of any longshot to contend for a spot in the postseason. These two historic franchises face off for only the 28th time this monday.
Ryan’s Season Totals
Assigned Games: 9-8
Best Bets: 15-8, Up 858%
- Opening Line: Pittsburgh -6.5
- Current Line: Pittsburgh -6.5
- Over/Under: 40
- Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
- Start Time: 8:15 PM EST, MON 11/8
- Last Meeting: Bears, 23, Steelers 17 in OT in Chicago in 2017
The Bears come in as a team built to have their defense keep them in games long enough to give their young franchise QB room to be aggressive and make mistakes. And although the Bears offense has looked pretty bad (30th in the NFL by DVOA), QB Justin Fields has looked more and more comfortable in the offense every week. The issue with the “typical Bears winning formula” is not only an offense going through legit growing pains, but a defense that has not been as strong as they had been expected to be coming into the year (18th in the NFL). It’s fair to say this has been in large part due to the “injury bug” (or the actual bug in Coronavirus) with the defense losing defensive stalwarts like Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Eddie Jackson through spots in the season.
As for Pittsburgh, many in the analytics community had known an overall fall was likely to occur for a team who’s “2020 11-game winning streak” included wins vs: the Broncos with a backup QB (Jeff Driskel), Carson Wentz, the lowest rated passer in the NFL, a win because of a missed FG by Stephen Gostkowski, the Ravens with Lamar Jackson coming up just short and Dak Prescott after a 4Q rally. Overall, they won 7/9 one-score games. That’s NOT sustainable, the Steelers are very likely to see some negative regression. However, between a strong defense and holding QB Ben Rothlisberger together with duct tape they have managed to stay competitive in a very strong division.
One interesting factor to consider in this game is a longtime trend : the Steelers success at home. Based on DVOA, since 2015 the Steelers have ranked 1st, 4th, 2nd, 3rd and 10th (excluding the non Big Ben year) at home, vs 5th, 10th, 5th, 11th, and 27th on the road. There has been some regression this season, but given this trend, along with the fact the Bears have the 3rd worst Home vs Road DVOA split (-9.9% at home vs -30.8% on the road), I believe there is a legit advantage for the Steelers here.
One other tactical split that jumps off the page is how often the Steeler have lined up in Dime this season (40% 2nd most in NFL according to SIS), a personnel the Bears have been horrendous against: #32 in the league according to SIS. In fact, the Bears offense has actually been average vs Base personnel, coming in at 14th by EPA/play, but 30th vs. Nickel and the aforementioned last vs. Dime. Based on this usage, there is a strong advantage towards the Steelers defense. Between this and the strength of the Steelers outside pass rush (vs. a Bears team better suited against the inside rush) it’s hard to see the Bears putting up many points.
Prediction: Steelers 20, Bears 13