The Bears were historically bad on defense last year, surrendering a franchise-worst 29.9 points per game, which led to four straight OVER results to end last season along with six in their past seven.
The Bills almost never cover as road underdogs, and the Bears seldom cover as home chalk. Which trend gives in Week 1?
Point spread: Chicago opened as a 4.5-point favorite, but it was bet up to seven points by midweek; the total was 48.5. (Line updates and matchup report)
Odds Shark computer prediction: 21.9-21.0 Bears
Why the Bills can cover the spread
The Bills will get the opportunity to test Chicago right away with a powerful three-headed rushing attack, featuring C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Bryce Brown.
The Bears were the worst team in the NFL against the run a year ago, giving up 161.4 yards per game, also the worst mark in team history. Each running back brings something different to the table, and Chicago will be hard-pressed to stop all of them.
A successful running game early on could set the table for Buffalo to keep the game low-scoring and take some pressure off second-year quarterback EJ Manuel. The Bills are also 7-2 against the spread in their last nine season openers, according to Odds Shark, and the Bears, while 10-2 SU as home chalk in two seasons, are just 2-6-1 ATS their past nine games in this role.
Why the Bears can cover the spread
Much like Buffalo’s game plan, the best way for the Bears to approach this game is to test the opposition’s defense and find out what they can do offensively.
If Chicago QB Jay Cutler can get some time to throw the football, he will look to air it out to his big receivers in Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett. Cutler also has versatile RB Matt Forte as a strong option out of the backfield, whether that involves handing him the ball or tossing it to him in the flat and letting him run downfield.
There’s no doubt that the Bears have more offensive weapons in this matchup, and they have seen the OVER go 9-2 the last 11 times they have opened the season at home. One of the few things that could keep them from covering is a slower pace.
For contrarian bettors who like to bet opposite of the public, recreational bettors appear to be heavily behind the Bears (nearly 70 percent of bets as of Wednesday, according to Odds Shark’s NFL consensus betting data).
The Bills do have a solid running game, but depending on Manuel to throw the ball remains an adventure despite the team trading up and spending a better first-round draft pick on WR Sammy Watkins.
The rookie from Clemson is nursing bruised ribs, which should not keep him from playing his first NFL game. However, Chicago veteran cornerback Charles Tillman will work hard to hold him in check.
Buffalo is just 1-8 ATS in its last nine games as a road underdog and probably will not be able to keep up with the Bears on the scoreboard if they start out hot. The computer is calling a slim Bears win (22-21), which would be in keeping with their win-but-do-not-cover pattern at home.
Odds Shark is using the Bills as one of its five LVH Supercontest picks this week, so we feel strongly that the Bills can stay close.
- Bills are 7-2 ATS past nine season openers
- Home team is 7-1 SU in this series since 1980
- Bills 0-4 SU and ATS at Chicago since 1980
- Bills 1-8 ATS past nine as road underdogs
- Bears 10-2 SU past two seasons as home chalk (2-6-1 ATS)