GameDay: Chicago at Dallas

We’re coming off a successful double Book It from Thursday’s Baltimore-Cleveland game. Let’s keep that momentum going into tonight’s Cowboys-Bears clash. While I’m sure no one has ever said this, the Cowboys – “America’s Team” – are seemingly always enjoyable to watch while the Bears tend to only be fun to watch if you live in Illinois.

So, let’s dub this the Watchables vs. the Unwatchables.

Tonight’s Important Numbers (5Dimes)

LINE: Dallas -3 (-130); Chicago +3 (+110)
OVER/UNDER: 41 1/2; (-110 for both)

Breakdown: Chicago
It’s never pretty but the Bears typically win with defense. Last week’s 23-6 dismantling of St. Louis is more of what Chicagoans are expecting from the vaunted Bears D this season. Heck, holding Green Bay to 23 points at Lambeau Field – a week after the Packers were beaten on the same field and likely were angrier than ever – is pretty impressive as well. Those defensive efforts have helped the Bears hit the under the past two weeks.

Here are a few key Chicago trends:
  • Since 2010 the Bears have played in an NFL-high eight games where both teams combined to score 30 or fewer points (four in 2010, three in 2011 and last week vs. St. Louis).
  • Chicago is 6-2 ATS in its last eight games as a 3-point or less underdog (3-2 on the road, 3-0 at home).
  • While the Bears are lauded year after year for their defense the team is capable of scoring in bunches. Chicago has posted 11 30-point games since 2010. Naturally, in every one of those cases the Bears blew past the total, giving over bettors a gigantic smile. Heck, in two of those games the Bears covered the over all by themselves (38-14 win vs. NY Jets in 2010 - over at 36; 40-14 win at Minnesota in 2010 - over at 34), while falling just short of a Chicago-only cover in this year's season-opening 41-21 win vs. Indianapolis (over at 41.5).
It is usually fairly obvious from the first quarter what kind of Bears team you’re watching that day. You’ll either have a 0-0 slugfest heading into the second quarter or, as was the case in last year’s 37-13 whipping of Detroit when the Bears had a 20-0 lead less than a minute into the second quarter. Then there are the games like the Tyler Palko-led Chiefs’ 10-3 win at Soldier Field last December where the Bears offense was somehow kidnapped prior to kickoff.

Breakdown: Dallas
Here are some great Cowboys nuggets for you:
  • Dallas is just 6-12-1 ATS dating back to 2011.
  • Dallas has hit the under in 13 of 19 games since the start of 2011.
  • Dallas hit the over on 13 of 16 games in 2010.
  • Since 2010, the Cowboys have gone over all four totals set between 40.5 and 41.5.
The first thing I’ll answer is “Why are you giving us erroneous factoids from 2010, especially when they contradict the other numbers?” The answer is simple: Rob Ryan. Heralded for his vaunted defense in Cleveland, which was always overshadowed by the horrific offense, Rex’s brother really does know what he’s doing. Rob’s first year in Dallas was last season and the change was immediate. The defense stopped giving up a slew of points and that led to a 62.5-percent rate on unders vs. overs. The Cowboys are 3-for-3 on unders this year, and most haven’t been close to touching Vegas’ number.

What makes the Cowboys so dangerous – or perceived to be dangerous – is that they’re very similar to that other team in Texas. You know, the Houston Texans, who just might be the NFL’s best team in 2012? It relies on its defense and, at home it is better than ever.
In the only home game this season, the Cowboys suffocated Tampa Bay in a 16-10 win. Last year Dallas’ points allowed in home games were as follows: 16, 34, 7, 13, 7, 19, 37, 20. A few clunkers are in there – the first is the Romo collapse game where Detroit stole a victory and the other was the Eli-Romo shootout in a December Sunday Night game. But those other point totals are salivating if you like defense.
The Matchup
The talking heads, especially on ESPN, will blabber about this being a showdown of Dallas’ offense against Chicago’s defense. In reality, the game will hinge on Chicago’s offense against Dallas’ defense.

If Dallas can get pressure with its front four – very likely with Chicago’s O-line problems and Dallas’ outstanding line led by Demarcus Ware – then it’ll be on Jay Cutler to make quick reads and let his wide receivers work. Matt Forte in the screen game – if he plays for the first time since Week 2 – will be a big part of Chicago’s offense tonight. If Forte can’t go it’ll be up to Michael Bush to pick up the pieces in the short passing game.

Turnovers, as always, will be key. I wouldn’t expect many interceptions – maybe one from each quarterback, but with all the speedy rushers and turnover history here I could see a half dozen fumbles. Those giveaways, especially if they occur in the red zone, will help keep both teams in the game and, for betting purposes, lead to a lower-scoring contest.

The Pick
Usually I like the Bears getting points, but I hate really this matchup for Chicago. The Cowboys defense is playing awfully well and while the offense isn’t exactly clicking (13.6 points per game in three weeks) it’s been successful in controlling the ball and eating up clock. The combination of all these facts has me stay away from the spread tonight. But, forced to choose I would lean Chicago +3 (the Bears do wonders when given points). I keep seeing a 23-13 Cowboys win in my head, so that's why I'm not pulling the trigger. I do love the under 41 ½Unless there are a few Pick-6s I can’t see how this game will combine for more than five touchdowns and two field goals. Book It!