There is a very nice battle between two 7-1 teams on Sunday Night Football this week when the current second seeds in the NFC, the Chicago Bears, host the top seeds in the AFC in the Houston Texans. That may or may not be a good thing for the Texans, whose only loss came in their only chance so far to perform in front of a national audience, losing at home to Green Bay also on a Sunday night.
Chicago is a slim -1 favorite at home with the total set at 41.
1. Why Chicago will cover the spread: Chicago will cover the spread if they can shut down Houston’s vaunted running game. Yes, the Texans may have the best running back in the NFL in Arian Foster, but the Bears are allowing just 88.2 rushing yards per game, and the 4.3 yards per carry they are allowing is very deceptive. You see, Chicago led the NFL in rushing defense heading into last week’s game vs. Tennessee and was allowing less than 4.0 per carry going in. Those figures took a hit on just one play, an 80-yard touchdown run by Chris Johnson vs. a Chicago defense that was relaxing with a 51-12 lead. Because of that one play, Chicago allowed 159 rushing yards, meaning that the Bears allowed their customary 79 rushing yards over the rest of the game. If the Bears are successful in containing Foster, then a second key would be putting pressure on Matt Schaub on obvious passing downs.
2. Why Houston will cover the spread: The Texans will cover the spread if Schaub can have early passing success on first and second down, with the hope of that loosening up the Chicago run defense enough for Foster to have his usual success. After all, the Texans are 5-0 this season when rushing for over 100 yards, and their two wins when rushing for less than 100 yards came vs. weaker competition than Chicago (Tennessee, Miami). Houston rushed for 90 yards in the loss to Green Bay. A second key to a Houston cover is not turning the ball over vs. an opportunistic Bears’ defense that has produced an incredible eight defensive touchdowns this season.
3. Total Talk: We like the ‘under’ quite a bit in this game. We like the chances of the Bears accomplishing both of their goals, as the defense has yet to let up this season while games were in doubt, and we do expect this to be a tight game throughout. From Houston’s perspective, despite what we feel they should do, we have a feeling that Coach Gary Kubiak will force feed Foster the ball and keep giving it to him even if the Bears keep stopping him, with the confidence that he will hit a home run sooner or later. Unfortunately, the Texans have not seen a run defense as good as Chicago’s yet this season. We have a lean to the Bears’ side, but not as strong as on the ‘under’.
4. Betting Trends for the game: The Bears are 27-15 ATS in November since 2001. The ‘under’ is 4-1 in Houston’s last five road games.
Chicago 20 – Houston 16