NFL Week 15 best bet: Take the Chicago Bears as underdogs against the Cleveland Browns

2T0BWYX Chicago Bears wide receiver DJ Moore (2) smiles after stepping out of bounds during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

• Take the Chicago Bears as underdogs versus the Cleveland Browns: An improved Chicago team has no business being underdogs against an injured Browns squad.

• WR D.J. Moore is in line for a big day: Key injuries and matchup factors have Moore in a smash spot.

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Chicago Bears @ Cleveland Browns (-3, 38)

Don’t look now, but the Bears have been…good?

In my opinion, this team has been underrated all season because of some extreme late-down splits at the beginning of the year that caused them to appear like the worst team in the NFL.

Now that Justin Fields is back, Chicago has been playing great football. Since Week 10, the Bears rank eighth in weighted net EPA+, which values offense more than defense to create more predictive rankings. During that period, the Browns are down at 25th. 

Fields has a favorable schematic matchup against a man-heavy Browns defense that has fallen off over the last few weeks. Against man coverage, Fields ranks sixth among 40 passers in EPA+ compared to 27th against zone coverage.

A bump in production against man makes intuitive sense, as it allows Fields to scramble when defenders turn their backs to run with receivers in man coverage.

Given that Cleveland plays man coverage at the fourth-highest rate in the NFL, I’m optimistic that Fields and this Bears offense can move the ball consistently in Week 15.

The Browns are also dealing with injuries in the secondary, with cornerback Denzel Ward questionable and safety Grant Delpit now on injured reserve.

The Bears also match up perfectly with a run-dependent Cleveland offense, as they have held opponents to the fourth-fewest EPA per rush this season. In order to produce a successful offense, the Browns will need a solid game from veteran quarterback Joe Flacco, who has taken over for Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

Although the Browns have been able to score with Flacco at the helm, it has not been because of his performance. In his limited reps, the veteran signal-caller has produced the 10th-worst EPA+ of any quarterback this season, just ahead of Mac Jones and Zach Wilson.

Flacco will also find himself under pressure all game, as he will be facing a Bears defensive front that has generated pressure at a top-10 rate over the last couple of games following the acquisition of edge rusher Montez Sweat. Making matters even worse, the Browns will be without three starting offensive linemen in this game.

With a banged-up front line, a limited running game and Flacco under center, this Cleveland offense faces an uphill battle against one of the most underrated defensive units in the league.

Best bet: Bears +3 (to PK)

The market has not adjusted to the Bears' recent performance and is giving an injured and regressing Browns team far too much credit. Take the Bears as underdogs of any kind. 

Best player prop bet: WR D.J. Moore over 62.5 receiving yards

Moore is in a smash spot against a man-heavy Browns defense. Chicago’s WR1 has been lethal against man coverage this season, averaging an incredible 14.6 yards per target, third in the league among all qualified pass-catchers. 

Moore can create separation at a high rate when matched up one-on-one with cornerbacks and has seen his target share jump to almost 30% against man defenses.

Against the aforementioned injured Cleveland secondary, Moore should be able to exploit a favorable matchup against Martin Emerson Jr., who has really struggled to prevent explosive plays on the outside.

This sets up perfectly for a big day for the star Bears receiver. Moore should be able to clear this relatively low total with ease.

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