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NFL Predictions: Texans at Bears Odds and Betting Picks
by Trevor Whenham - 11/8/2012

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Houston Texans fullback James Casey

If you’d looked on the schedule before the season started, this game probably wouldn’t have jumped out as what it has turned out to be — the game of the year to this point in the season. At 7-1 the Texans are the class of the AFC. Chicago, with the same record, is behind only Atlanta in the NFC, and is in a surprisingly strong position in their division. It’s not just the records that are impressive, either. Only San Francisco has allowed fewer points than these two squads, and Chicago is tops in the league with a +116 point differential, with the Texans second-best at +100. Given those differentials, it’s obvious that these aren’t one-dimensional defensive teams, either — Houston has scored the second most points in the AFC, and Chicago is third best in the AFC. These have been the two most complete teams in the NFL up to this point.

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Because these teams are in different conferences, this game is limited in what it proves in real terms. However, it is a very good measuring stick both for where each team is at this point, and how the elite of the conferences measure up. The AFC looks to be far behind the NFC overall this year, but a convincing Houston win could start to challenge that perception.

Texans at Bears Betting Storylines

When teams have records as impressive as these two squads, you need to look closely at the schedules to make sure that what the teams have accomplished isn’t misleading.

Neither team has played a particularly tough schedule, but the Texans have a clear edge on this front. They have wins over all-but-certain playoff teams in Denver and Baltimore, and fringe contenders Miami. Their loss is something else they have in common with the Bears — both teams have lost to the Packers, and neither game was particularly close. Chicago, meanwhile, has only one win against a current playoff squad (if the postseason started today) — Indianapolis — to their credit, and that was in the first Colts game of the year when everything was new for Andrew Luck and the young roster.  Beyond that they have faced teams that are either underachieving — St. Louis, Dallas, Detroit, Carolina — or just plain bad — Jacksonville, Tennessee. Given that motley collection of opponents, and the fact that they badly failed their only real test of the season so far, you need to discount what the Bears have accomplished to some extent. I’m not suggesting that they are a fraud or that they can’t compete here, but there is no denying that their statistics on both sides of the ball are more inflated than they are accurate.

Despite the offensive production of both teams, it would be a mistake to assume that these teams and their quarterbacks are aerial assassins. Matt Schaub has a reputation as a top-level passer, but the Texans are just 16th in the league in passing yards. His completion percentage is below his career peaks by a good margin, and his yards per attempt have fallen from 8.49 last year to 7.70 this year. He’s still a very solid passer, but he’s not at his best. The good news for him, though, is that the Bears have been far stronger against the run than the pass. They are just 16th in the league against the pass, and that has come against some struggling QBs.

Schaub looks like Marino i his prime next to Jay Cutler, though. Only three teams are averaging fewer passing yards per game than the Bears, and with eight interceptions compared to just 12 touchdowns Cutler is still being plagued with the consistency issues that have always been associated with him. Up against the defense that is fourth in the league in passing yards allowed, it’s hard to imagine Cutler having a great game.

An obvious story in this game is the showdown between the two leading candidates for Defensive Player of the Year — J.J. Watt for the Texans, and Charles Tillman for the Bears. While the prospect is enough to have you salivating, it might not materialize. Tillman’s wife is pregnant and is past her due date, and he has said that he will miss the game if she is in labor. Lovie Smith and the Bears are fully in support of this, so this is going to be something to watch closely leading up to the game.

Texans at Bears NFL Odds and Betting Trends

The game opened with the Bears favored by a single point, and it has remained stable at that level. More bets have come in on the Texans, but not by a significant margin. Therefore, at this point it seems unlikely that the line will move dramatically. The total opened as high as 43 points, and it has fallen to 41. With both defenses getting the attention here there is a good chance it will fall further.

The Bears are 5-0-1 ATS in their last six games when favored by a field goal or less. Houston is 3-0-1 ATS in their last four as underdogs of the same margin, though, so both teams are in a comfortable position. Houston is 6-0 ATS in their last six games played in November. Chicago has shown consistency in the month as well — they have gone “over” the total in each of their last six November games.

Texans at Bears Predictions and NFL Picks

I really don’t believe in these Bears. They have not played a convincing schedule, and I question their offense and what will happen to their defense against a strong test. Houston has been significantly more challenged through the year, and they have looked better doing it. The location is a bit of a concern because Houston might not handle November in Chicago well, but I still have to go with the Texans — and feel pretty good about it. I also see some value in the total — I’ll let it fall as far as it will, then take the over.

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