The Justin Fields revenge tour continued this weekend, as he planted seeds of doubt in the minds of every team that passed him up in the draft. The Bears ultimately fell to the Lions, 31-30, but Fields continued to showcase the playmaking ability that has transformed the Bears offense. After the first six games, Fields was PFF's lowest-rated passer. The Bears averaged 14 points a game, and were held to 10 points or less in three of the first six games. They ranked 31st in success rate, in front of only Carolina.
In Week 7, betting against Fields when Chicago traveled to New England to face Bill Belichick's defense seemed like a no-brainer. But, unfortunately, it only took 15 minutes of football for bettors like myself to realize they had made a big mistake. Fields threw for 179 yards, but his willingness to weaponize his elite athleticism made all the difference. Fields rushed for 82 yards on 14 carries, and Chicago shocked New England, 33-14. They have been a different team ever since.
Since Week 7, Chicago has averaged 31 points while scoring at least 29 in all four games. Fields followed up his 178-yard rushing performance against Miami by ripping off 147 more against Detroit. He has touchdown runs of at least 60 yards in consecutive games. He gave a broken offense an identity, and Chicago now ranks seventh in EPA/play over the past four weeks.
The new-look offense has yet to add to the win column since the upset in New England, but it does make it difficult for teams to extend leads. That's valuable when the Bears are in the underdog role like they find themselves this week. The Bears are 2-1 ATS in their last three as a dog and will travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons (4-6). Here's why there is enough value at the current line to warrant locking this wager up early in the week.
Both teams are coming off demoralizing losses to bad teams. The Bears blew a 14-point four-quarter lead to the Lions, while the Falcons never led in their 25-15 loss to Carolina. However, their offenses appear to be heading in different directions. The Bears offense continues to ascend each week with Fields' development, while Falcons fans call for a quarterback change. Marcus Mariota was sacked five times against Carolina, and Atlanta is averaging only 156.8 passing yards per game (30th in the NFL).
Overall, I don't see a massive difference between the two teams from a rating perspective, nor do I credit Atlanta with a significant home-field advantage. There are a few things that I look for when backing an underdog, and Chicago checks enough boxes. If you are going to slow down this version of the Bears, you better be able to stop the run. That's an area where Atlanta has struggled mightily this season. The Falcons' 31st-ranked rush defense got trucked by Carolina for 232 yards in their last loss.
It's always a good sign when the underdog's optimal path to scoring is also their opponent's weakness. It makes it more difficult for the favorite to hold any lead and cover the spread. Justin Fields isn't going to go away. That's one aspect that makes the underdog valuable in this matchup. As the favorite, the onus is on the Falcons, and their struggling offense, to win by more than a field goal.
The bet isn't solely based on my confidence in Chicago but also on fading the Falcons' ability to perform as a favorite. Not only is it an unfamiliar role for Atlanta, but it's also one where they have yet to have any previous success. The Falcons are 0-2 ATS as a favorite, failing to cover both games against Carolina. They will have a tougher time against a more dangerous and explosive offense. Chicago is live to win this game outright, but I don't trust its defense enough to turn away the points. Take the Bears while there are still 3's available at BetMGM.
Stats provided by teamrankings, footballoutsiders and rbsdm (10-90 WP)