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October 25, 2014

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Week 10 NFL picks against the spread for the Sun’s handicapping contest

Packers, Bears or Lions in the NFC North? Sports books aren’t sure

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Green Bay Packers quarterback Seneca Wallace is pursued on a play by Chicago Bears defensive end Shea McClellin during an NFL football game Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis.

In the two-year history of the Sun’s NFL handicapping contest before this week, the three competing sportswriters had all picked the same side only three times.

Sun's NFL betting game of week 10

Which 5-3 team would you bet to win the NFC North?
Lions +170 — 45%
Bears +200 — 29.3%
Packers +140 — 25.7%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

They did it twice this week. Both games, coincidentally, involve the NFC North.

The panel likes the Green Bay Packers giving one point against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Bears in a pick ’em with the Detroit Lions. The two home teams make up six of the 24 total selections against the spread, listed below.

Both supported teams’ injury-riddled quarterback situations have put their division in flux. Oddsmakers have thrown their hands up like an NFL coach protesting a penalty trying to figure out what to make of injuries to the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and the Bears’ Jay Cutler.

Rodgers is out for an unspecified amount of time after fracturing his clavicle in the first quarter of a 27-20 loss to the Chicago Bears — the Packers were favored by 10 points — in the final game of Week 9. The unfortunate circumstance explains the reason why some sports books hold off posting next weeks’ lines for teams playing on Monday Night Football.

Those shops that did already have a number on Packers vs. Eagles were sent scrambling to take it off the board and, later, change it drastically. Green Bay went from minus-10 to minus-1 when Seneca Wallace was officially named the starter with Rodgers out.

The 2011 NFL MVP is one of two players in the league with enough power to move a betting line nine points; the other being Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

Cutler’s influence on the line is much less pronounced. Sports books opened Chicago as 2.5-point underdogs against Detroit assuming Josh McCown, who led the Bears in the win over the Packers, would start again with Cutler ailing from a groin tear.

When it came out Thursday afternoon that Cutler would play, the spread shifted less than a field goal to a pick ’em. He’s returning two weeks early, which could spell hesitance from some bettors to back the Bears with the fear that Cutler’s not 100 percent.

It’s quite the contrast from just six weeks ago, when the Bears were a popular public play to cover the spread as 3-point underdogs at the Lions. The 40-32 loss set them off on a four-game spread losing streak that they didn’t snap until the Packers win.

That improved Chicago’s against-the-spread record to 2-5-1, as opposed to Green Bay’s 5-3 and Detroit’s 4-4. The three teams are tied at the top of the division with 5-3 straight-up records.

But local sports books are about as helpful at figuring out which team is the favorite as a holding call is to an offense fighting for a first down. Future odds to win the NFC North have been taken down all across town with the injury confusion.

Bettors must venture offshore to find numbers, and they’re far from conclusive. Bovada.lv gives all three teams somewhere between a 30 and 37 percent chance with the Packers at plus-140, the Lions at plus-170 and the Bears at plus-200.

Football Outsiders’ playoff odds agree with the division being the NFL’s toughest to call midway through the season but differ on the favorite. The advanced metrics give the Bears the best chance to win a home playoff game, at 48 percent, with the Packers and Lions trailing at 30 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

The 1-7 Minnesota Vikings are off the betting board for a reason. Although not technically eliminated, Football Outsiders gives them not only a zero percent chance of winning the division but also of making the playoffs.

All three NFC North contenders fortuitously have a matchup with Minnesota remaining, though the Lions own the easiest overall schedule at No. 22 in the league according to Football Outsiders. At full strength, however, oddsmakers would have the Packers power-rated well above the other two teams.

They’ll be the favorite if they can stay afloat without Rodgers. Chicago and Detroit will need to take advantage by winning with the division’s most important player sidelined.

Read below for all of the Week 10 picks in the Sun’s handicapping contest. Games are listed in order of their sports book rotation number.

 

Taylor Bern

Record: 30-24 (3-3 last week)

Packers minus-1 vs. Eagles

Giants minus-7 vs. Raiders

Bengals minus-1.5 at Ravens

Bears pick ’em vs. Lions

Panthers plus-6 at 49ers

Cowboys plus-7 at Saints

 

Ray Brewer

Record: 27-25-2 (3-3 last week)

Packers minus-1 vs. Eagles

Steelers minus-3 vs. Bills

Ravens plus-1.5 vs. Bengals

Bears pick ’em vs. Lions

Chargers plus-7 vs. Broncos

Cowboys plus-7 at Saints

 

Case Keefer (2012 champion)

Record: 24-30 (4-2 last week)

Packers minus-1 vs. Eagles

Ravens plus-1.5 vs. Bengals

Bears pick ’em vs. Lions

Panthers plus-6.5 at 49ers

Broncos minus-7 at Chargers

Buccaneers plus-2.5 vs. Dolphins

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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