As the first week of the NFL season approaches, the biggest underdogs are the Houston Texans (+7), the New York Jets (+6.5), the Pittsburgh Steelers (+6.5) and the Chicago Bears (+6.5). When it comes to betting, if anyone was interested in choosing one of these teams, they would think they would choose the spread. Any team expected to lose by more than one touchdown is definitely an underdog, so choosing them to win outright would be a folly, right? Well, based on how the Bears-49ers bet, this assumption is completely wrong.
Between August 30 and September 6, 75 percent of bets placed on that game chose Chicago to win outright. Only 25 chose Niners. Now, there are two factors at play. The most obvious is the payout to choose an outright winner in this game. Obviously, bettors will be more inclined to choose the team that will win them the most money if they win. With the Bears being underdogs by 6.5 points, the payout should they win a win should be rather large. Why spend $100 on a bet of 49 who will win you only about $135 when a $100 bet on bears can win you $360? This disparity between potential payments is a big factor in the minds of bettors.
Second, bettors don’t seem willing to believe in Tre Lance just yet. according to OddsChecker United States Spokesperson Kyle Newman said, “There’s such a small sample size with Tre Lance at this point that bookmakers won’t feel comfortable putting money on the 49ers down the road. Lance might grow very well this season and become a star, it’s just a matter of whether he’ll be ready. For the first week or not. The bettors aren’t buying it, so they’re backing the Fields and the Bears.”
There’s no denying that Fields could end up being the better quarterback of the two, but we haven’t seen a breakout performance from Fields yet so let’s say Fields has the X factor that could make him a star. Lance didn’t do that either, and he has a lot more actual NFL experience compared to Lance. This is coupled with the fact that George Kittel, the 49ers tight star, likely misses action in first week It means that bettors see the potential for big profits.
Although I trust the Chicago defense to give the 49ers outer zone running scheme some bouts – they have a quick seven lead with plenty of great forwards – the 49ers attack should be able to carry them to victory if Trey Lance is able to perform at a close level. Nowhere near what we saw of Jimmy Garoppolo last season. That’s big if anyway. In theory, Lance offers a much larger arm and blast opportunity that the Niners never had with Jimmy G. However, Lance’s accuracy and sense of the game remain in question. When Lance had his chances to play last year, a lot of times we saw him give up pocket too early and run the ball himself rather than keep his eyes on the field and try to extend play. We’ve seen glimpses (lots of them; Lance often kept his eyes down until he completely crossed the scrimmage line) of improvement in that area of Lance in pre-season, but pre-season and normal game action are two completely different beasts.
With that said, both Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk should be healthy for this game, and they’ve outperformed most of the minor bears on their own. As long as Lance can get the ball to them, which Kyle Shanahan’s game plan should make fairly easy, the Bears defense will have a very difficult time stopping a 49er attack even without a Kettle.
If the Bears want to win, it will come down to two things: The Bears’ defense limits the 49ers’ running game, and Justin Fields capitalizes on a hit and a secondary defeat for the 49ers. Outside Darnell Mooney and Can Cole dumb, Fields won’t get much help in that second section. He’s talented enough to make tight throws, but without a true No. 2 receiver (or No. 1 installed for that matter), Charvarius Ward and Emmanuel Moseley could cause some problems for Fields.
Look, I’m all for a go home or go home in your local sportsbook, and based on the unknowns surrounding Trey Lance, I don’t think betting on the Bears is a bad decision. However, 75 percent of bettors think this is a wise decision that sounds a bit dubious. Either they know something I don’t or they looked at the Bears +260 line and started salivating, dropping their credit cards on the table right away without even thinking about it. The difference between the bets placed on each team should be much closer in my opinion. Then again, I said it at the Bills Rams game on Thursday and the Bills bettors proved me wrong.
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