The Los Angeles Rams were a disaster Sunday afternoon at home (not really home) against the San Francisco 49ers, falling 20-7 as three-point favorites as a stadium full of San Francisco fans looked on. We did get the Seattle Seahawks on the road against the Browns despite the market moving against us and towards the Cleveland Browns. The Detroit Lions, without the help of the officials, still got us to the window at +4 in Lambeau against the Green Bay Packers, giving us a 2-1 week even without the best of the number (the Lions opened around +6).
We now sit at 105-87-10 (54.7%) since we started writing this column and 12-6 on the season. This week had a decent number of good games to choose from at the start of the week, but due to some line movements (Washington and Oakland), we settled on two games we like. Be sure to listen to the PFF Forecast each Monday morning for a look ahead to the week, as well as each Thursday for a preview of Thursday Night Football and the weekend’s games.
[Editor's Note: All ELITE subscribers can access PFF Greenline, a betting dashboard with projections for the spread, over/under and moneyline for every NFL and FBS game every week. Subscribe today to gain access!]
New Orleans Saints (+3.5) at the Chicago Bears
Point (George Chahrouri): How does one get excited about Teddy Two-Gloves playing quarterback? Put him up against Mitch Trubisky. The Saints have gone from dead in the water without Drew Brees to solidly at the head of the NFC and second only to the New England Patriots in PFF ELO. Bridgewater is undoubtedly the better quarterback getting more than three points in this game and for that reason, we will be retweeting Pope Francis this week.
The Saints rank 12th in expected points added per pass play with Bridgewater as the starter, posting a number that is better than the Bears number with Trubisky, especially because the Saints are actually positive while the Bears quarterbacked by Mitch were losing points every time Trubisky dropped back to pass. Only Josh Rosen has a worse grade from a clean pocket than Mazda Mitch while Theodore has done exactly what everyone in New Orleans had hoped, which is to be average ranking 17th.
The market is likely excited for the Bears' defense at home coming off a bye. The Bears rank fourth in expected points allowed per pass play, but there are a few things that are being overlooked. First, the Bears will be without Akiem Hicks, their best interior pass-rusher who is now on IR. Secondarily, the Saints have the best offensive tackle duo in Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramcyzk, both of whom rank in the top-15 in PFF pass-blocking grade (5th and 13th respectively), which means the Saints are uniquely equipped to limit the damage done by the Bears best player, Khalil Mack.
The Saints might be without Alvin Kamara, who is worthy of all the praise he receives and makes my list of favorite NFL players along with Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. However, we should remember that Sean Peyton is the designer of an offense that allowed a third-round running back to turn into a human highlight reel, and we shouldn’t expect the offense to tank should he be limited.
Counterpoint (Eric Eager): It’s a real chore for me to go against Teddy Bridgewater, so I’m very much looking forward to having this bet come Sunday afternoon. That said, the Bears are coming off of a bye week, while the Saints are on their second consecutive road game after a big 13-6 win in Jacksonville against Chuck Norris and the Jags. We’ve sung the praises of the Saints' defense on the PFF Forecast podcast, but the Bears have not had the type of large-scale regression on that side of the ball that we predicted in the offseason, allowing only 4.7 yards per play so far this year (compared to 5.7 for the Saints). While Bridgewater has largely avoided the turnovers that made the Bears’ defense into the taste of the NFL a season ago, it’s not clear that they will be able to move the ball at will the way they did against Tampa Bay a two weeks ago, or close out the game last week against the Jaguars, giving this cover a dicey feel.
On the other side of the ball, Trubisky has not been good no matter how you slice it, having failed to earn a 55.0 or better grade in each of his four starts. He is also averaging almost two full yards per pass attempt less than he did last year. However, Matt Nagy is one of the league’s best play-callers, Taylor Gabriel is returning from a concussion that held him out the last two weeks (he had three touchdowns prior to the head injury) and there are a significant number of universes in which something like two touchdowns and a field goal will be enough to win this game outright — and possibly cover the number –given the types of games Bridgewater and the Saints have played in the birthmark’s stead. I have a hard time visualizing these sample paths, but be wary of them when you go to make your bets.