NFL Picks: Cowboys vs. Bears Opening Odds

Jason Lake

Tuesday, December 3, 2013 1:14 PM UTC

Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013 1:14 PM UTC

The football odds haven’t been very kind to the Chicago Bears this season. Hosting the highly profitable Dallas Cowboys doesn’t help their cause.

Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013, up to December 1 inclusive:

32-27-2 ATS

1-1 ML (+0.71 units)

6-12-1 Totals

Check out our NFL Picks: Week 14 Betting Odds Report

It’s been one of those years for the Chicago Bears (6-6 SU, 2-9-1 ATS). They have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, led by a new and gifted coaching regime. But injuries and bad luck have conspired to make Chicago the most unprofitable team in the NFL betting universe. That’s the way the prolate spheroid bounces.

Fortunately for the Bears, they’re still just one game back in the NFC North with four games left to go. Their next opponents are the Dallas Cowboys (7-5 SU, 8-4 ATS), who have been paying off handsomely this year, yet are themselves locked in a difficult struggle for NFC East supremacy. The Week 14 NFL odds opened with Chicago laying 1.5 points at home for their Monday Night Football matchup; that line quickly moved to a pick ‘em out on the Strip, with Dallas favored by 2.5 points at a couple of locations. What gives? 

Bets of Unusual Size

Very few online sportsbooks have opened up shop for Monday’s game (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) as we go to press; by the time you read this, there should be enough action to provide us with some solid data on the NFL betting patterns. These are very early football lines we’re talking about, so they’re more prone to mood swings whenever someone enters the market with a sizeable bet – and since it’s usually the professionals who shop early, those bets are more likely to be supersized. 

Nonetheless, early indications are that (some of) the sharps like Dallas in this situation. Hard to blame them given the ATS records of both teams. But I’m not convinced. The market may have already passed its peak for the Cowboys, who have dropped the cash in three of their last four games. True, Chicago is even worse at 0-4 ATS during that span, but three of those misses were by a combined two points. You may have even gotten paid in those games if you bought the Bears at a favorable price.

Born Under a Bad Sign

When I talk about “bad luck” in these situations, I’m not talking about an actual thing. I certainly hope in this day and age that you don’t believe in some supernatural force bent on ruining the season for the Bears. Although I defend your right to believe in such things, of course. Just don’t let those beliefs guide the way you bet on the NFL. If anything, you should capitalize on other people’s illogical betting habits. 

The thing we call “luck” in sports betting, or any form of gambling, is variance from expected value. Football games are essentially chaotic; the ball is shaped funny, the running clock puts pressure on the players, and as you may have noticed recently, the officials make mistakes. You’ve even got the flip of a coin deciding who gets the advantage at the start of the game and in overtime. Luck may even out over time, but there isn’t much time in a 16-game NFL season.


Regression Obsession 

This is why sports analytics is so important to NFL betting. If you break down a team’s performance into individual plays rather than individual games, you can get a better handle on how “good” that team “is.” And according to the analysts at Football Outsiders, the Bears (No. 8 in efficiency, 6.7 Estimated Wins) were performing at a higher level than the Cowboys (No. 12, 6.3 EW) heading into Week 13.

I’ll be writing more about this matchup later in the week, but for now, if you’re interested in a speculative bet on some very soft NFL lines, there’s reason to take Chicago in this situation. 

NFL Pick: Take the Bears PK at BetOnline
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