NFL Week 5: Chicago Bears @ Kansas City Chiefs
Chicago Bears +10 (-130) @ Kansas City Chiefs
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
October 11, 2015, 12pm CDT
Kansas City should be licking their chops heading into week5, as they will host the the #31-ranked Chicago Bears. On the other hand, maybe chop-licking is prohibited for teams dealing with three game skids. The Chiefs suffered beatings in weeks 2-4, albeit in each case by pretty good teams (or better). More troubling though than the amassing of three consecutive straight up losses is that KC has also failed versus the number over this period, including being dealt a home loss vs. the Broncos from the position of 3 point favorites (the only game played so far at the Chiefs' Arrowhead Stadium).
Meanwhile, the Bears too are 1-3 absolutely and against the spread, but Chicago might be enjoying some manner of a revival currently. At home versus the Raiders last week, the Bears mustered their first win of the season. Jay Cutler was back under Center and he looked good (relatively speaking), posting an above average, but certainly not exceptional, Total QBR of 60.3 -- 50 represents average.
We expect the Bears primary QB to start the week 5 contest, representing a major upgrade over the play of fill-in, Jimmy Clausen. For instance, The Football Outsiders rate Cutler 193 yards better than Clausen, based on their proprietary Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement stat. But given that Cutler has attempted roughly twice as many passes as has Clausen, the disparity between these two skill position players might be understated.
It is unlikely that Kansas City's #30-ranked pass defense will slow the Bears efforts to move the ball aerially. While the passing game has been less important than the run for Chicago this season, the Bears did rank #9 last year in passing yards as a percentage of total yards. In our thinking, the spotty play at the quarterback position while Cutler was hampered by an ailing hamstring explains the run-heavy approach to offense Chicago has adopted of late. Given Cutler's reinsertion in the starting line-up, we expect an increased emphasis on throwing the ball this week and likely beyond. To illustrate this point, consider that with Cutler back as the on-field director of Chicago's offense last week, passing accounted for 73% of the Bears total yardage, compared to their 2015 season average of about 61% (and the Raiders actually rank higher defending the pass than do the Chiefs).
Also, Kansas City QB, Alex Smith, is arguably the worst in the league at throwing down field. AS the following graphic illustrates, The Football Outsiders found that, over the last three completed seasons, Smith has been the absolute bottom of the barrel at converting through the air on third downs, coming up almost 2 yards shy of the first down marker per attempt, on average. Smith also boasts the highest third down sack rate in the NFL over this period.
Bottom line: We submit that Kansas City's defense is far to weak to justify betting that they will hold Cutler and the perhaps reinvigorated Bears more than 10 points behind. Additionally, the Chief's ineptitude with the long ball likewise makes it hard to count on KC to put up enough points to win a shootout by double digits. [KC is averaging 25 points per game, with actual team totals falling within the reasonably tight range of 21-27. Chicago is averaging 17 points per contest -- even after being blanked by the storied Seahawks defense at CenturyLink Field in week 3; in their 3 games not in Seattle thouhh, the Bears have posted either 22 or 23. points].
This perspective fits with our quantitatively-derived 'full house' signal in favor of Chicago to cover (i.e. each indicator in our stable points to value to Bears backers). We are wagering accordingly.