NFL Betting Value Found in Thursday's Cowboys vs. Bears

Jason Lake

Monday, December 1, 2014 7:15 PM UTC

Monday, Dec. 1, 2014 7:15 PM UTC

The Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears both played on Thanksgiving Day. They get to play one another this Thursday night; the Cowboys opened as 4.5-point favorites on the Week 14 NFL odds board.

Jason’s record after Week 12: 32-44-1 ATS, 14-20-1 Totals

The Dallas Cowboys should be used to playing football on Thursdays. They’ve been doing it since 1966, as part of the NFL’s traditional Thanksgiving series. The Chicago Bears are no strangers to Thursday football either; they were playing on Turkey Day as early as 1922. But playing on consecutive Thursdays? That’s just cruel.

Welcome to the new NFL. The Cowboys and Bears will hook up at Soldier Field for the latest edition of Thursday Night Football (8:25 p.m. ET, NFLN), one week after losing their respective Thanksgiving Day games. The Week 14 NFL odds opened with Dallas laying 4.5 points; as we go to press, that spread has dipped to –3.5, although out consensus reports show most early bettors supporting the Cowboys. What gives


Decembrist Revolt
No worries. That 4.5-point spread was a limited opening, with most books chiming in afterward at –3.5. In fact, the early pressure on Dallas (8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS) is moving the football odds in the other direction. Our first consensus numbers had 90 percent of bettors on the ‘Boys at –3.5 (+100), compelling the oddsmakers to raise the vigorish back to its standard –110. Expect even more chalk on the Cowboys as we get closer to kick-off.

But is that optimism warranted? Dallas has a recent history of falling apart in the month of December; if you go all the way back to Tony Romo’s debut with the Cowboys in 2006, they’re 14-20 SU and 10-24 ATS during what should be the most festive month on the calendar. This isn’t just a case of the ‘Boys being a lousy cold-weather team, either. They went 4-12 SU and ATS at home.


Breaking My Back Just to Play Your Game
Naturally, Romo gets most of the blame for this collapse. But the numbers don’t completely justify that reaction. Yes, Romo’s production does dip slightly in December; his career passer rating for the month is 89.7, down from 96.6 overall. But that’s still a competent performance. Romo has thrown 48 TD passes and 27 INTs in December games, which is pretty good work at the end of a long and punishing season.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Romo is in the clear this week. After literally breaking his back in Week 8 and missing the next game, Romo put up monster numbers in road wins over the Jacksonville Jaguars (+7.5) and the New York Giants (+4). But the story was different last Thursday when the Cowboys had to face the Philadelphia Eagles (+3 away) on a short week of rest. Romo was held without a touchdown for the first time in 39 games, as Dallas lost 33-10.


Urlacher-Briggs Type Indicator
Perhaps things will return to “normal” now that the competition level had dropped and Dallas has had a full week to prepare. The Bears (5-7 SU and ATS) are still alive in the NFC playoff hunt, but realistically, they’re playing out the string in what’s been a season to forget in the Windy City. The latest blow came in their 34-17 Thanksgiving loss to the Detroit Lions (–7.5 at home); LB Lance Briggs had to miss that game with a groin injury, and will be out for the remainder of the year.

This could be the uppercut that knocks out the Bears for good – not just from a talent standpoint, but emotionally, as well. Briggs, a 12-year veteran of the Chicago wars, is on the last year of a contract extension, and he’s not expecting to be back in 2015. The Bears faced a similar situation with Brian Urlacher at the end of the 2012 campaign; when they wouldn’t meet his contract demands, he retired. Now that Briggs is staring down the same fate, how will his teammates respond this Thursday?

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