Top sportsbooks have released their NFL odds for this week’s action. For this week’s rendition of Thursday Night Football, we get to zero in on a single game: Commanders vs. Bears.
The Commanders enter this game having lost four straight while the Bears enjoy a chance to reach .500.
For reasons that I will explain, you should play both spread and total for this game.
Washington Commanders vs. Chicago Bears
Thursday, October 13, 2022 – 08:15 PM EDT at Soldier Field
I find it odd that Washington is favored by fewer than 3 points at the best sportsbooks for Thursday's game. This spread suggests that, on neutral territory, Washington would be favored.
Throughout the season, as strange as it might sound in view of the Commanders' record, oddsmakers have been overrating Washington. So far, the Commanders have failed to cover the spread in four of their five games.
As I will argue, they will also fail to cover the spread on Thursday night because they are not better than Chicago on neutral territory and, most importantly, they do not match up well against their opponent.
Anemic Commanders' Offense
The Commanders are struggling to score at all. They've failed to reach 20 points in three straight games. To be exact, they've scored a combined total of 35 points in these most recent three games.
While one might cite the positive ranking in scoring defense of two of those opponents, Philadelphia and Dallas, it is hard to explain away Washington's most recent scoring dud.
After facing Washington and holding the Commanders to 17 points, Tennessee still ranks in the bottom half in scoring defense.
Lack of Run Game in Washington
Critical to Washington's offensive struggles is its lack of run game. Washington ranks 28th in averaging 89 rushing yards per game.
Top running back Antonio Gibson is struggling with 3.2 YPC. In his first performance of the season, Brian Robinson mustered 2.4 YPC against Tennessee.
Bears' Run Defense
Chicago's run defense numbers may foster the false impression that Washington's ground game merits optimism on Thursday. Efficiency stats create a different picture: the Bears recently limited the Texans' and Giants' leading running backs to one of their worst performances in terms of YPC.
While the Bears give up a lot of rushing yards, it is also a fact that opposing teams attempt more rushes against them than against any other team.
Bears' Third Down Defense
Opponents are able to run the ball so many times against Chicago because game script calls for it; they are leading, and so they run the ball.
As I continue to argue that Chicago will win tonight, I'll lay this point aside and focus on the other key reason. Chicago's opponents are thriving on third down.
Commanders' Third Down Prospects
In order to convert third downs reliably, Washington will need to pass efficiently on third-and-long situations, although third-and-short situations would obviously be preferable.
The latter is unrealistic, though, in view of the Commanders' anemic ground game and healthy linebacker Roquan Smith, with his six-run stuff on the season, spearheading Chicago's front seven.
Especially with its top cornerback Jaylon Johnson banged up, Chicago has struggled against top-caliber wide receivers, with one recent example being Minnesota's Justin Jefferson.
But the Commanders rank in the bottom half in third-down conversion rate. Plus, Johnson could be fit to rejoin his team after practicing at the end of last week.
Carson Wentz's Struggles
The Commanders are desperate to help Carson Wentz by using deception to free up opportunities for him downfield.
They call play-action pass plays like almost no other team, but they fail because opponents are not scared of Wentz handing the ball off.
Lack of run support means that Wentz is overtasked. He needs this support, though, as he ranks outside the top 20 in various metrics touching quarterback accuracy.
Plus, Wentz has been especially bad against zone defense (he ranks 27th in passer rating against zone defense) and Chicago coach Matt Eberflus is known for favoring zone.
Justin Fields and David Montgomery
Chicago already deserved optimism in view of its more than competent running back group, which helps the team rank fifth in rushing yards per game.
Quarterback Justin Fields, though, was struggling, and his coaches did not believe in him, as evident in their play-calling tendencies. But Fields is finally finding his footing, having completed 71.4% of his passes last week in Minnesota and earning a 118.8 passer rating.
This most recent performance justifies the hope that Chicago will present a threat both on the ground and through the air against a Commanders' defense that, its explicit issues this season with coordinator Jack Del Rio aside, will see the field a lot with especially key front-seven personnel still banged up.
Commanders vs. Bears: The Verdict
With an improved and confident Fields and a strong ground game, Chicago can score more than enough to cover the small number.
Washington can ensure that the game goes "Over" with a successful deep pass to speedster Terry McLaurin, who loves going deep in case Wentz actually throws him an accurate ball.
With your NFL picks in mind, play the Bears and the "Over."
NFL Pick: Over 39.5 (-110) at BetOnline
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.