NFL Picks: Cowboys vs. Bears Monday Night Football

Jason Lake

Thursday, December 5, 2013 1:38 PM UTC

Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 1:38 PM UTC

The Chicago Bears are about to face the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field. On Monday Night Football. In December. Will things get messy enough for the UNDER to break the NFL betting lines?

Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013, up to December 4 inclusive:

33-27-2 ATS

1-1 ML (+0.71 units)

7-12-1 Totals

Would you believe there’s a total of 49.5 points on the NFL odds board for Monday night’s matchup (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Soldier Field between the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears? Actually, there might not be by the time you read this. Our consensus reports show nearly 90 percent of bettors pounding the UNDER as we go to press, and many online sportsbooks have already dropped the total to 49 points, or even 48.5.

Sure, we may be living in a Golden Age for NFL offenses, but we’re still talking about a night game at Soldier Field in December. The long-range forecast for Monday calls for temperatures in the low teens at kick-off, with a 15-percent chance of precipitation and crosswinds of about 15mph. No wonder everyone’s storming the pay window to bet the UNDER. Everyone except for the sharps, that is.

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Cold Case

A closer look at the betting patterns on the Strip reveals all. In what has become a standard move over the past couple of years, the early birds were pounding the OVER for Monday’s matchup, looking to snap up some football betting value before the public floods in over the weekend. Some handicappers will bet this way blindly across all the games on the schedule. It’s a labor-saving device to be sure, but perhaps not so applicable when the Bears are playing at home in December. People love to bet the UNDER in these conditions. We’ve already seen Monday’s total drop by as much as a point. We’ll probably see it drop even further.

That doesn’t mean the sharps are on the wrong side. The Bears already have the OVER at 8-4 this year, and the Cowboys aren’t far behind at 7-5. You can credit lousy defensive play for these records. Chicago’s once-vaunted defense has fallen from the top spot on last year’s efficiency charts at Football Outsiders, all the way down to No. 19 this year through Week 13 (No. 15 pass, No. 28 rush). The Dallas defense has dipped from No. 23 overall to No. 27 (No. 23 offense, No. 29 defense).

The Weather Underground

Then you have to take a closer look at the weather. Allow me once again to point at the 2007 academic paper by Richard Borghesi, who found that NFL offenses performed worse than expected in rainy, windy and hot conditions, but better than expected in the cold and (within reason) the snow.

The trick from a football betting perspective is to wait until closer to kick-off to see exactly what kind of weather is on the horizon. I don’t have that luxury when it comes to my recommendations, but if I go by the current weather report, the OVER looks like the better pick despite the winds. These aren’t squalls coming off Lake Michigan; in fact, they’re supposed to be heading in the other direction. And cold weather doesn’t turn athletes into statues.

Lee’s Lowdown

One last stat for you: the OVER is 5-2 in Chicago’s last seven home games in December, after going 7-16 in the previous 23 contests. But there’s still good reason to bet the UNDER if the weather takes a turn for the worse over the weekend. As bad as the Dallas defense has been, things should improve with the return of Sean Lee, one of the best linebackers in the NFL. He’s missed the last three games with a hamstring pull – all three games going OVER for the Cowboys.

Again, I’m picking the OVER way ahead of time and would strongly advise you to be patient before pounding those NFL lines. The money will still be there later in the week. Assuming we haven’t given it all back to China by then.

NFL Pick: Take OVER 48.5 at Hertiage

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