With their seasons on the line, the (2-5) Chicago Bears travel to Qualcomm Stadium to take on the (2-6) San Diego Chargers in this week’s Monday night match-up (8.30pm ET on ESPN). Both teams are struggling for form and have a big injury list, making this preview’s betting picks and predictions a fairly tough call.
It has been a hard year for the Bears, who have alternated between their two top players, QB Jay Cutler (pictured) and WR Alshon Jeffrey, being on the injury report. Of all the teams, the Bears have placed the most big names on that list including two additions for this week in WR Eddie Royal and RB Matt Forte. Looking to be short-handed once again, Chicago will rely on Cutler, who returned last week to an even and clean line (211 passing yards, one touchdown, no interceptions).
The Chargers meanwhile, who are much better than their record indicates, have also recently been bit by the injury bug. Still within grasp of one of the AFC’s wildcard spots, San Diego was dealt a big blow last week when top receiver and one of the top pass catchers in the entire NFL in 2015, Keenan Allen, went down with an injury. It was later revealed that Allen was placed on the IR and that his season is over. Stepping in for Allen is a trio of second tier guys. Ultimately, it is going to be up to QB Philip Rivers, who leads the NFL in passing, to find a way to keep the offense humming without its top weapon.
Losing Allen is huge blow. He had 725 receiving yards and was targeted more than any other player in the league. He was a favorite and reliable go-to guy for Rivers, who at 33, is in the midst of a career year of his own.
Allen led the team in receptions and it wasn’t even close. Second is RB Danny Woodhead with 39 and third is also-injured tight end Ladarius Green with 24. The next highest wide receiver, Malcom Floyd, has 21 receptions. Additionally, with 89 targets, Allen almost doubles that of Woodhead (49) and more than doubles that of Floyd (40).
The point being, Allen isn’t going to be easy to replace. Likely, Floyd, Stevie Johnson and Antonio Gates, who recently returned from injury himself, will be given more opportunities to catch the ball. Because the thing is, despite Allen’s absence, San Diego isn’t going to suddenly become a run-heavy team. Their offense is built on the passing game and has its most success when that aspect is going smoothly. Rivers will continue to throw the ball as many times a game as he was. The only difference now is that someone else will be making the catches.
Meanwhile, the Bears lost arguably their most important player in Matt Forte, as he is sidelined with a knee injury and will likely miss a few weeks. What Allen was to the Chargers, Forte certainly was, perhaps more so, to the Bears.
In an up and down year for Chicago, Forte led the team with 767 yards from scrimmage. He was involved in the passing game to a great extent and seemed to be a nice security blanket for Cutler. Forte caught balls out of the backfield and was especially active when Jeffrey was on the shelf himself. But now Jeffrey is back and while Chicago’s running game might suffer, the passing game is certainly bolstered and in a better situation that that of the Chargers.
Without Forte, the Bears still have Jeffrey who has put up monster numbers despite only playing in three games this year. In those games, Jeffrey has been targeted 37 times, no doubt the highest such per game volume of any pass catcher in the entire league. Additionally, he has scored a touchdown and recorded over 115 yards in two of those three. He is the weapon for Cutler, who also has tight end Martellus Bennett, who could fill Forte’s role as short distance pass catcher. Bennett currently leads the team in targets (58) and receptions (37) and is second only to Jeffrey in yards, despite having played four more games.
Chicago will look to the pass and to Cutler to lead the team in Forte’s absence. In the past, reliance on Cutler hasn’t always proved fruitful as his stance as one of the NFL’s mediocre quarterbacks has long been true. That said, Cutler does have an arm and one that if accurate, is one of the better ones in the league. If the Bears can trust him and if he can trust himself, the team should be fine without Forte.
Our Preview’s Chicago Bears vs San Diego Chargers Betting Picks
For two teams who haven’t quite been able to put it together this year, this game comes at a good time. It’s not to say Chicago or San Diego will make the playoffs, but in a year where the parity is practically non-existent, both are still alive. Monday’s match-up and winner could be a determining factor between which team’s season is likely over and which survives to live another day.
The injuries have hurt both teams, especially the Chargers, who profiled to be much better than this. San Diego has had a few close calls this season, but overall they’ve been disappointing, especially given Rivers’ status as one of the best signal callers this year. The Chargers have mainly been burnt by a defense that is allowing over 28 points per game. Fortunately, Chicago is not the most prolific attack, but still, San Diego’s defense is going to have their hands full trying to stop Jeffrey.
All things considered, it is a home game for San Diego, where they are 2-2 on the season and have played their best games. However, San Diego has lost each of their last four and will be looking to find a balance without Allen and that swings it in terms of our preview’s betting picks for the game:
- The home team are -4.5pts favorites on the spread and circa -220 betting odds on the moneyline. But take the Chicago Bears + 4.5pts @ -110 odds with any of BetOnline, Bovada or 5Dimes sportsbooks.
- As for the total points in this Monday night matchup NFL game, it would be a good bet to go with the over 49pts with either BetOnline or 5Dimes @ best odds of -110. The same betting line is -115 with Bovada.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.