Week 7 of the NFL season wraps up Monday night with the New England Patriots (-7.5, 40) hosting the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium (ESPN, 8:15 ET).
After an exciting Sunday of action, we have one more opportunity to wager on professional football if we so choose. So which plays do our analysts like the most?
Betting analyst Joe Fortenbaugh, ESPN analyst Seth Walder, fantasy and sports betting analysts André Snellings and Eric Moody, plus Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz provide their top plays.
Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise indicated.
Chicago Bears at New England Patriots (-7.5, 40)
Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET, Gillette Stadium
With Mac Jones returning for the Patriots, what are your thoughts on the spread and total for this game? Who are you taking?
Fortenbaugh: A one-dimensional offense (of which Chicago is one, thanks to a hideous passing attack) is a recipe for disaster against a Bill Belichick-coached team because he’s a master at making the opposition play left-handed. So you have to ask yourself, “Do I trust Justin Fields, who ranks 32nd in the NFL in QB rating at 72.7, to go out and win me this bet?” My answer to that question is a resounding, “No.” I hooked a handful of 6-point teasers into New England on Monday night and would also lay a half unit on the Patriots at -7.5, not to mention an under bet as well.
Snellings: If Jones indeed back, I’ll go with the under. In three games before getting injured, Jones led the Patriots to just 15.7 points per game, and they combined with their opponents to go under this line in two of those three games. Similarly, Fields has led the Bears to an average of 15.5 points per game and they’ve combined with their opponents to go under this line in four out of six games. These are two teams that are better on defense than offense and have struggled to score.
Did the Buccaneers’ loss blow your parlay too? Commiserate with Jason Fitz with the bad fantasy and betting beats of the weekend.
Schatz: The Bears are just a very bad team, ranked 31st in DVOA right now and 30th in ESPN’s FPI. The Patriots have been playing very well over the last couple of weeks. Yes, they’re going back to Jones from Bailey Zappe, but the larger sample of Jones’ career (21 total games, as opposed to just the three games from earlier this year) suggests that Jones is the better quarterback. I have faith in Belichick building a Patriots defense that completely shuts down Fields and the entire Bears offense. Meanwhile, the Patriots will run all over a Bears defense that ranks 27th in run defense DVOA. Patriots, all the way.
Walder: FPI has very little faith in Chicago, who it ranks as the third-worst team in the NFL, ahead of only the Panthers and the Brett Rypien-led Broncos. Sacks are a serious problem for Fields. I contend they are mostly on him, but that’s really neither here nor there when forecasting this game. The Patriots defense is legit, ranking fifth in efficiency this season. Put it all together and the model thinks New England should be 9.9 point favorites. I’ll take the Patriots.
Marks: I don’t see either of these teams putting up many points tonight — so expect another snoozer. I envision the Pats doing just enough to solidify a comfortable lead and then running the football a lot. Both teams play at a slow pace, and are committed to running the ball. The Pats are ranked 22nd in the league in plays per game. They also average 30 seconds between plays, The Bears rank 31st in plays per game. Weather conditions are expected to be cold and rainy. Expect New England to want to get in and out of this game with few injuries and focus on the Jets in Week 8. I am taking the under and the Patriots team total under (24.5 points).
Rhamondre Stevenson has rushed for over 200 yards over the last two games. The Bears have one of the best pass defenses in the NFL, but are one of the worst against the run. What are your thoughts on Stevenson to finish with the most rushing yards this season (30-1), as well as his props for Monday night?
Snellings: With Damien Harris having returned to full practice on Thursday, I’m expecting rushing production in the 60-70 yard range for Stevenson, and receiving production in the low-20s as opposed to the 266 total yards he produced over the last two weeks with Harris out. In other words, Stevenson could still be in for a solid game in a timeshare with Harris, especially through the air, and I could still see him as a likely candidate to score a touchdown.
Fortenbaugh: I do love Stevenson, but the return of Harris makes this a pass for me. He simply won’t record enough touches.
Schatz: I agree with Fortenbaugh here. Bill Belichick loves his RB committees too much for Stevenson to lead the league in yardage for the season. The question of how much Harris will play scares me off of going either over or under on Stevenson’s Monday night props.
Marks: Even with Harris returning, the Pats should continue to utilize Stevenson over 60% of the offensive snaps. He has proved his worth, averaging over five yards per catch. The Bears defense has allowed 22 receptions to opposing RBs and 70% of the TDs they have allowed are rushing TDs. I’ll go with Stevenson over 2.5 receptions and play him for an anytime TD Monday night.
The Bears have only thrown the ball 35% of the time, with 141 attempts on 402 plays — lowest in the league. However, Fields’ rushing yards prop has gone over in five of his last six away games. It’s at 43.5 for Monday night. What are your thoughts on Chicago’s player props? Would you take any of them for Monday night?
Fortenbaugh: I’d be looking to play unders, especially when it comes to Chicago’s rushing attack. I think Belichick is going to stack the box and dare Fields to beat New England with his arm, something the second-year quarterback has been unable to do throughout his brief time in the NFL.
Snellings: I’d take Fields over 43.5 rushing yards. He’s gone over that mark in each of the last four games, averaging 58.5 yards. I could see Belichick daring Fields to throw and trying to limit the run, but Fields is electric enough with his legs that I still like him to do some damage.
Schatz: I’ll take the over on Fields’ rushing yards because the Patriots historically have trouble with scrambling quarterbacks, in part because they play a lot of man coverage. I agree that the Patriots will look to stack the box and force Fields to throw, but he’ll get out of the pocket for a couple of big runs against this defense.
Walder: I’ll go over for the same reason. The Patriots have gone with man coverage at a 56% rate this season, which is fifth highest in the NFL. That generally leads to more scrambling opportunities for opposing quarterbacks. The Bears ought to be looking to get Fields to use his legs as much as possible.
Marks: I’ll take Justin Fields over 24.5 pass attempts and over 7.5 rush attempts. Fields is averaging nine rushing attempts a game and with Matt Judon expected to chase him down much of the night, I believe he will go over his rushing attempts prop tonight. Fields has also been throwing the ball more lately. He had 27 pass attempts against the Chargers last week and I expect the Pats to load the box to force Fields to throw the ball even more.
What is your best bet for Monday night’s game?
Fortenbaugh: I like the Bears to score under 15.5 total points (+100). This Chicago offense is in for a loooong night.
Walder: I’ll take Darnell Mooney for over 3.5 receptions (+100). I’m slightly nervous about this one because my model, which projects 4.3 receptions for Mooney on Monday, is having a hard time forecasting pass rates as low as what the Bears are putting up because they are such outliers. Still, Mooney is coming off of a 12-target, seven-reception game, which I think carries some signal. Plus, the Bears are going to be behind and will have to pass, even if they don’t want to. Mooney is the obvious target.
Moody: Mooney has gained more than 50 yards in three straight games. In that time frame, he has accumulated 22 targets. Even though the Bears are facing Bill Belichick and the Patriots, Mooney is Chicago’s best receiving playmaker. Against the Patriots cornerbacks, he is talented enough to win. There should be more than enough target volume for Mooney to go over 45.5 receiving yards.
Marks: Cairo Santos over 4.5 points. The Bears will have a difficult time scoring touchdowns against the Patriots defense, especially if they load the box. Right now, Fields is the worst red zone quarterback in the league — scoring only 36% of the time inside the 20 yard line. I expect Santos to get a lot of work tonight.