Here's your best NFL pick for Sunday when the Miami Dolphins head north to Chicago to face the disappointing Bears in a Week 7 inter-conference game that neither team can really afford to lose.
Miami Dolphins vs, Chicago Bears (Bears -3½, 44, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook), Sunday, (FOX, 4:25 p.m. ET/1:25 p.m. PT): The Miami Dolphins (2-3 SU, 2-3 ATS) looked like they had the potential to have a great season the way they played in Week 1’s win over AFC East rival New England in Miami but it’s been a bit disappointing since for the Fish although winning here on Sunday afternoon in Chicago’s Soldier Field against the enigmatic Bears (3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS) is a distinct possibility in a game in which oddsmakers have made host Chicago -170 favorites (bet365) on the Money Line (Winner) with Miami +150 to win outright. The Point Spread for the game has the Bears as 3½-point favorites (bet365) with the Total Points at a lofty 49 (SkyBet). The Bears Total Team Points is at 26 (SkyBet) while the Dolphins Total Team Points is 23½ -125 (Paddy Power). The Anytime TD Scorer and First TD Scorer and many other various prop bets will come out mid-week. An interesting prop bet that is posted at bet365 is Total Fields Goals with the number at 4½ (Under -333, Over +240) and there should be a lot of drives that stall in this game which end up in FG attempts and Chicago’s Robbie Gould (8/9 FG) and Miami’s Caleb Sturgis (9/10 FG) have both been brilliant so far this 2014 NFL season.
The Dolphins boast the #6 Rushing attack in the league (136.2 ypg) thanks in great part to RB Lamar Miller (63 rushes, 330 yards, 3 TDs) but that running game took a big hit with the news that RB Knowshon Moreno (31 rushes, 148 yards, TD) will be on the Injured-Reserved list for the rest of the season, putting more more pressure on QB Ryan Tannehill (122/186, 1,146 yards, 8 TDs) and the passing game which has leaned fairly heavily on WR Mike Wallace (25 receptions, 313 yards, 4 TDs). Tannehill (13-9-1 ATS as Underdog) and the offense have been decent, but it’s been the Dolphins defense (#13 against the Rush, #8 against the pass) that has really been surprising and that defense will be a big part of the reason many bettors take visiting Miami (8-8 SU, 9-7 ATS in 2013) and the 3½ points in this interconference Week 7 game in the Windy City.
On the Dolphins injury and roster front, besides losing Moreno (torn anterior cruciate ligament) for the season, Miami reinstated DE Derrick Shelby to fill Moreno’s spot on the roster while DE Dion Jordan becomes Eligible for this game. Gs Billy Turner (foot) and Shelley Smith (knee) are both listed as Questionable as is WR Brandon Gibson (hamstring). RBs Daniel Thomas and/or recent-signing LaMichael James could get some of the carries Moreno would have normally gotten but that remains to be seen and his loss is a blow no matter how well Miller is playing as it puts more pressure on him as other teams know he’ll get the bulk of the carries. So, expect that #6 Rushing ranking to be a distant memory come late November, early December.
At 3-3, the Bears really need the win here with a game at the Patriots on tap next week but up-and-down QB Jay Cutler (156/229, 1,676 yards, 13 TDs) and Chicago should be better than a .500 club at this point in the season with the #9 Passing (266.5 ypg) and the #20 Rushing offenses (103.7 ypg) with feature back Matt Forte (99 rushes, 399 yards, 2 TDs) and WRs like Alshon Jeffery (31 receptions, 495 yards, 2 TDs) and Brandon Marshall (25 receptions, 301 yards, 5 TDs) and TE Martellus Bennett (36 receptions, 364 yards, 4 TDs)...but they’re simply not and that’s been the Bears story over the past couple of seasons. Frustration city. And a loss here would further dim fan support for the team anyone who lives in Chicago knows to be the city’s #1 sports team. A 3-4 record could lead to 3-5 after that aforementioned trip to Foxboro in Week 8 and a trip to Lambeau in Week 10 lies in wait after an Open Date in Week 9. So, the Bears could very well be staring at a 3-6 mark heading into Week 11 all because of a loss to Miami here in Week 7. Safe to say this is a huge game here for the home team and second-year head coach Marc Trestman.
As far as injuries go, Chicago has had CB Charles Tillman (tricep) on the I-R for some time, while S Chris Conte (shoulder), DB Ahmad Dixon (hamstring), CB Sherrick McManis (hamstring), LBs Lance Briggs (ribs), Jon Bostic (back) and Shea McClellin (hand) and T Jermon Bushrod (knee) are all listed as Questionable for Sunday’s game against Miami. So, in reality, both teams are a little bit banged up but that’s to be expected at this point in the NFL season. For the Bears, veteran LB Briggs presence against the Dolphins would be very helpful and could end up making a big difference.
This is a hard game to handicap, but if I had to lean to a side, it would have to be the visiting Dolphins because of the jagged number (3½) and the Bears incredibly poor record ATS in their L12 at Home (1-10-1). Chicago QB Cutler (20-27 ATS at Home) may be a little more experienced than Tannehill, but the Vanderbilt graduate is always good for a couple of key mistakes each game that make it hard for his team to win and even harder for Bears backers to cover the point spread. Chicago is just 2-4 SU L6 at Home and the Bears are a woeful 7-15-1 ATS in their L23—a good team to fade therefore. The two teams are 2-2 both SU and ATS in the L4 meetings with the Total Points (O/U) also split at 2-2. The series has trended to the Under (5-2 L7) although Bears games have gone 4-1 Over in the L5. But here, it’s the 49 that seems too lofty for two offenses which probably end up settling for more FGs than TDs and those 4 points lost each time a team settles for 3 when it could have gotten 7 add up in the end and keep many games Under and it seems everything will have to go right for this one to generate 50 points. Not a strong angle, but logical enough for a Miami-Chicago NFL pick on the total that probably would have been lined around 44 or 45 a couple of years ago.
Free NFL Pick: Under 49 (bet365)