Could Sunday’s game in the Windy City be the beginning of the end for Chargers coach Norv Turner? Remember that in a Bodog props story a few weeks ago, I recommended you take Turner not to be the Bolts’ coach at the start of next season, and a loss Sunday would be San Diego’s fifth in a row, dropping the Bolts to 4-6, and would grease the skids for Turner’s dismissal after the season.
The only thing saving Turner right now is that the Chargers play in the terrible AFC West, in which they currently are in a three-way tie for second, a game behind Oakland.
Even though things look bleak for San Diego, all four losses in the skid have been by a touchdown or less, and all were against teams that could make the playoffs this year (although I would say the Chiefs won’t for sure know if Matt Cassel is out).
Last week San Diego lost 24-17 at home to a Raiders team missing Darren McFadden. The problems continued for Chargers QB Philip Rivers. He threw for 274 yards and two TDs, but he also threw his NFL- and career-high 15th interception of the season and fumbled on the final play, giving him an NFL-high 19 turnovers.
This is San Diego’s longest losing streak since starting 2003, at 0-5.
Chicago (6-3) is headed the opposite direction, having won four in a row to take over the No. 1 NFC wild-card spot. Last week the Bears dominated a Lions team that had beaten Chicago soundly before this winning streak started.
The Chicago offense was quiet last week, but the Bears had two interception returns for scores, and Devin Hester returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown.
There’s no real head-to-head to go on, as this is the first meeting between the teams since 2007. San Diego has only won once in Chicago, coming in 1970.
Chargers at Bears Betting Story Lines
Let’s start with the injuries first.
It’s fairly light for the Bears, but could be significant. Chicago lost starting left guard Chris Williams for the season with a wrist injury suffered against the Lions. Edwin Williams, who played well in Chris Williams’ spot when he went out, will get the start. Edwin Williams started three games last season before a back injury knocked him out of the lineup.
The key to Chicago’s turnaround has been the protection of Jay Cutler, and the offensive line had jelled since the team’s last loss, so this is worth keeping an eye on. Of the 23 sacks Cutler has endured, only five have come in the last four games.
San Diego’s injury list is massive. Let’s start with the players who we know are out this week: left guard Kris Dielman, defensive lineman Luis Castillo and linebacker Shaun Phillips won’t play again. Meanwhile, left tackle Marcus McNeill (stinger) and right guard Louis Vasquez (ankle) were both hurt against the Raiders. It is uncertain if they will play against the Bears, although it doesn’t look good for McNeill.
The line was a big problem against the Raiders, as Rivers was sacked six times. Oakland overwhelmed Brandyn Dombrowski, who replaced McNeill. With three starters missing, the offensive line that finished the game against the Raiders has never played in a full game together.
Think Chicago star end Julius Peppers is licking his chops? Peppers has six sacks, a forced fumble, four tackles for losses and two fumble recoveries this season.
Bolts strong safety Steve Gregory has been practicing after sitting out last week, and should play. So should linebacker Takeo Spikes, who left the Raiders game with a concussion. No. 2 WR Malcom Floyd (missed Oakland game) and cornerback Marcus Gilchrist are both up in the air as of this writing.
As usual, the key to the Chicago offense will be RB Matt Forte. The Bears had their worst rushing performance of the season against a 3-4 defense, when the Packers held them to 13 yards rushing in Week 3. But the Chicago run game has taken off since then.
San Diego—the first 3-4 defense the Bears have faced since losing to the Packers—has allowed 136 yards or more rushing in four of the past five games, and 157 yards to Oakland backup RB Michael Bush last week.
Chargers at Bears Betting Odds and Trends
Chicago opened as a 3.5-point favorite, with the total at 45 on NFL odds.
About 62 percent of the lean is on the Bears. San Diego is 2-7 ATS and 1-3 on road. Chicago is 5-4 ATS and 3-2 at home. The Bears are 5-4 on ‘over/under’ (4-1 at home) while the Chargers are 4-5 on ‘O/U’ and 3-1 on road.
San Diego is 0-5-1 ATS in past six following a loss. The Bears are 6-1 ATS in the past seven games as a favorite. The ‘over’ is 6-1-1 in the Bolts’ past eight road games. The ‘over’ is 7-1 in the Bears’ past eight as a favorite.
NFL Predictions: Chargers at Bears Betting Preview
Cutler and Rivers don’t like each other at all from their AFC West days—Cutler is just 1-4 against the Bolts in his career. Expect at least a pick or two again from Rivers, as Chicago is second in the NFC in interceptions.
The extra few days of rest should help the Bolts, although you wouldn’t think so by looking at that injury list. San Diego has just one road win, and that came at Denver when Kyle Orton was still the starter (he was replaced for good by Tim Tebow in the second half of that one).
Chicago’s only home loss came to Green Bay, and you can almost accept that.
I will probably wait to see if somehow this line gets to three points, but it appears to actually be going the other way. So take Chicago and the 3.5. I do expect a semi-shootout, so take the ‘over’.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports football picks Web site.
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