Although Chicago has been eliminated from playoff contention, NBC stuck with Chiefs at Bears for the final Sunday Night Football game of the year. Despite the Bears being out of the playoff picture, both teams will be plenty motivated on Sunday night. The Chiefs still have a shot at the #2 seed and a first round bye, while the Bears are trying to prove to both themselves and their fans that they’re a halfway decent team.
The most interesting storyline in this game and one that will drive Bears fans crazy during the telecast is the comparison of Patrick Mahomes and Mitch Trubisky. The Bears traded up to #2 in the 2017 NFL Draft and selected Trubisky as the first quarterback off the board. The Chiefs then traded up to the 10th pick to select Mahomes, and the rest is history. One QB went on to win the MVP in his second year, while the other has struggled to convince people that he’s a viable starting quarterback.
Chiefs Offense vs. Bears Defense
Let’s go ahead and state the obvious: the Chiefs are an elite offense and have an elite passing game. Patrick Mahomes is #2 in QBR to Lamar Jackson despite dealing with injuries to both his ankle and his hand. He has 23 touchdowns on the season to just four interceptions and he performs just as well away (13 TD – 2 INT) as he does at home (10 TD – 2 INT).
It doesn’t hurt that Mahomes has one of the best head coaches in football, Andy Reid, guiding the offense. Or, that he has elite pass catchers in Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Kansas City is simply a juggernaut on offense and have failed to score at least 23 points just once all season. The Chiefs played in a snowstorm against a strong Denver defense last week and put up 23 points. The week before, Kansas City played the #1 defense in football, the New England Patriots, and put up 23 points. So, the Chiefs come into this game against the Bears fully prepared for whatever Chicago has to offer.
Can the Bears give them a fight on defense? It’s possible. The Bears rank #7 overall in defensive DVOA and rank #7 against the pass. Chicago also got key defensive tackle Akiem Hicks back last week and his presence is essential to the Bears pass rush. Edge rusher Khalil Mack has suffered a down year in 2019, but part of that is due to teams double-teaming him without Hicks anchoring the defensive line.
The Bears have a strong secondary, led by Pro Bowler Eddie Jackson at safety and 2018 Pro Bowler Kyle Fuller at cornerback. But Chicago has been susceptible to the big play, and that’s what this Kansas City offense specializes in. For the Bears to keep this game close, their offense will have to help out the defense.
Bears Offense vs. Chiefs Defense
So, can the Bears offense produce enough to keep this game close? Can Mitch Trubisky quiet his detractors? I doubt it. But let’s take a closer look.
The Bears rank 23rd overall on offense. But it’s the running game that has been the anchor drowning the Chicago offense. When David Montgomery runs for over 50 yards, the Bears are 6-1. When he runs for under 50 yards the Bears are 1-6. What gives Chicago a chance in this game is that the Chiefs run defense is abysmal, ranking third to last in the NFL.
Against the pass, the Chiefs are surprisingly elite, ranking #6 overall per DVOA. So, if Mitch Trubisky is going to quiet any detractors in this game, he’s going to earn it. Luckily for him, his wide receivers have stepped up and made big plays in recent games. Allen Robinson was a Pro Bowl snub and has been outstanding all season long with 83 receptions for 1023 yards and 7 touchdowns. Second-year receiver Anthony Miller has also stepped up in a big way, with 21 catches for 300 yards and 2 TD in the past three games.
Both teams have quality special teams units. But the Chiefs are excellent, ranking #6 overall, while the Bears are just good, ranking #9. The Chiefs also have a major advantage at kicker with Harrison Butker vs. the Bears Eddie Pineiro and his 78.3% field goal rate.
The Spread and Total
The look-ahead line on this game was Chiefs -3.5. Chicago failed to cover yet again on Sunday, bringing their ATS record to a league-worst 4-10. With that in mind, bookmakers moved this line to Chiefs -4.5 for the opener. And as soon as it opened, money continues to pour in against the Bears, moving the line up to its current number of -6. Overall, 91% of the bets and 93% of the dollars wagered on the spread have been on the Chiefs.
Unders have been profitable all year long in Bears games, as have prime time unders. So, it’s no surprise that this total has dropped from its opening number of 45 down to 44.5. That is still a reasonably high total for a Bears game, and it would likely require the Bears offense to put the ball in the endzone on more than a couple occasions.
My best play for this game would be to wait and see if the spread ticks closer to +7 by game time, and begrudgingly play the contrarian angle and take the Bears.
By Kyle Johansen