The Chicago Bears went into their NFL Week 8 game against the New York Jets in last place in the NFC North.
They go into their Week 9 game with the Buffalo Bills in first place in the division.
That's how tight things are in the NFC North, and while it may be difficult for the improved Bears to hold on to the division lead by the end of the regular season, they should not have a big problem holding on to first place this week.
The Bears are 10-point road favorites over the Buffalo Bills Sunday, and that is clearly unfamiliar territory for Chicago. The Bears haven't been double-digit favorites on the road since October 16, 2006, when they took the field as 13.5-point favorites over the Arizona Cardinals, per the OddsShark database.
Fans may remember that game for a famous Dennis Green rant against the Bears, and ultimately his own team: "The Bears are who we thought they were, and we let them off the hook."
The Bears won the game 24-23, but the Arizona backers got the cover.
The Bills have been struggling on offense all season, and they have to turn to Nathan Peterman once again due to injuries at the quarterback position.
Peterman has failed badly in attempts to play quarterback in 2017 and this season. He has been an interception machine—four in 32 attempts this season—and the Bears have largely played outstanding defense this year.
Second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is improving, and he has demonstrated his talent for making big plays with his legs or on the move. He can be inconsistent with his accuracy, but he has the kind of weapons in Allen Robinson (groin injury), Taylor Gabriel (knee) and running back Jordan Howard to punish the Bills.
Chicago should get the win and cover unless the Bears are minus-two or worse in the turnover battle. The only way that happens is if they are looking past the Bills and thinking about the Detroit Lions, their Week 10 opponents.
Head coach Matt Nagy can't let that happen. The Bears win by at least two touchdowns.
Week 9 Point Spreads and Predictions
Oakland at San Francisco (-2.5); 49ers 30, Raiders 21
Detroit at Minnesota (-4.5); Vikings 28, Lions 27
Chicago (-10) at Buffalo; Bears 23, Bills 6
Tampa Bay at Carolina (-6.5); Panthers 38, Buccaneers 24
Kansas City (-8.5) at Cleveland; Chiefs 44, Browns 17
N.Y. Jets at Miami (-3); Jets 20, Dolphins 17
Pittsburgh at Baltimore (-3); Ravens 24, Steelers 20
Atlanta at Washington (-1.5); Falcons 27, Redskins 23
L.A. Chargers at Seattle (-1.5); Chargers 24, Seahawks 23
Houston at Denver (-1); Broncos 27, Texans 17
L.A. Rams at New Orleans (-1.5); Rams 30, Saints 27
Green Bay at New England (-5.5); Patriots 30, Packers 23
Tennessee at Dallas (-6.5); Cowboys 27, Titans 24
All point spreads courtesy of OddsShark.
Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns are once again a mess. Some things around the NFL rarely change.
The Browns fired head coach Hue Jackson and his offensive coordinator Todd Haley this week, and the team has been turned over to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
That's not exactly a calming influence for a team that needs to straighten out and concentrate on playing fundamental football. Not only do the Browns have to deal with this major change, but they also have to play the Chiefs, the most explosive offensive team in the league.
Patrick Mahomes should have a field day throwing the ball against the Cleveland defense, and that's something he does almost every week. Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and running back Kareem Hunt are not going to be stopped in this game.
The Browns would like to see Baker Mayfield develop, but how is that going to happen in this non-productive environment? He is probably going to try to keep up with Mahomes by throwing the ball on a nearly every-play basis, and that is likely to result in a series of turnovers.
The Browns have won a couple of games this year, but it may be difficult for them to win two more in the second half of the season.
Green Bay Packers at New England Patriots
This game is somewhat reminiscent of the meeting between the Patriots and the Chiefs earlier this season because both teams have explosive offensive attacks and defenses that are likely to struggle against them.
This is a rare matchup between Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and New England's Tom Brady. The Packers are coming off a 29-27 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, and it looked like Rodgers would have a chance to lead the Packers on a game-winning drive, but Ty Montgomery fumbled the kickoff following the Rams' go-ahead score, and that ended the comeback bid.
Montgomery and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix were traded this week, so the Packers may be in a state of flux. The Packers may not be at their best for 60 minutes, and if that is the case, the Patriots should have an excellent chance to cover the 5.5-point spread.
Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and Rob Gronkowski have an excellent chance to do quite a bit of damage against the Packers, and we expect Brady to keep his mistakes to a minimum.
Rodgers will get his share of points and big plays throwing to Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison, but the Pats appear to be the steadier team and they are at home.
Green Bay wins and covers the spread.