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July 30, 2014

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Week 4 NFL picks against the spread for the Sun’s handicapping contest

Lions, Bears looking to separate from the pack in the NFC North

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman yells to his team during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in Chicago.

It’s no surprise that an early-season clash is on tap to determine which team controls the NFC North, one of the NFL’s best divisions in recent years.

Sun's NFL betting game of week 4

What’s the best bet in Chicago at Detroit?
Bears +3 — 49.2%
Over 48 — 23.3%
Lions -3 — 16.8%
Under 48 — 10.7%

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.

The unexpected part is that the Green Bay Packers aren’t involved. With the division’s usual overlord resting on a bye week after a disappointing 1-2 start to the season, Chicago and Detroit meet for the honors.

The Bears (3-0 straight-up, 1-1-1 against the spread) get three points on the road against the Lions (2-1 SU, 2-1 ATS) in one of Week 4’s most significant games. The Sun’s sports-staff handicapping contest is treating it as such, with all three challengers using one of their weekly six picks on the game.

Despite traditionally coming in as one of the most supported preseason teams in Las Vegas because of their large fan base, the Bears saw a decline in future-book action this year. Bettors were hesitant on what to make of new coach Marc Trestman and how his offensive ideologies would translate, as well as the subtle makeover of the defense.

So far, it’s looked like a mistake. And one that’s too late to correct. Sports books have adjusted their numbers to account for Chicago’s hot start, which has featured quarterback Jay Cutler thriving in Trestman’s quick-strike attack and the defense remaining near the top of the league.

The Bears and the Packers are now co-favorites to win the NFC North, according to the LVH Superbook, at minus-110 (risking $1.10 to win $1) apiece. A week before the season began, the Packers were a minus-200 favorite with the Bears offered at plus-300 (risking $1 to win $3).

The pro-Chicago movement might not have gone far enough, according to one reliable numbers-driven source. Football Outsiders’ playoff odds report currently gives the Bears a 50 percent chance to win the NFC North.

The Packers trail at 34.5 percent. The Lions lag behind in both percentage and odds, as they’ve got a 15 percent chance to win the NFC North and are plus-450 to pull it off at the Superbook.

The Lions seek to win a divisional crown for the first time since the NFL re-aligned 11 years ago. The Packers have proven victorious in the NFC North six times in that span, including the past two years.

Unlike the Bears, the Lions were a popular futures bet in the offseason. Those who hold tickets on their over 7.5 wins are in good shape through the first three games, which included a 27-20 victory at Washington in a pick’em affair last week.

The Lions had never beaten the Redskins on the road in 16 previous attempts. They’re looking to thwart another case of negative history this weekend, albeit a more recent example.

During last year’s 4-12 campaign, Detroit went 0-6 against its NFC North rivals. The Lions did manage to cover when hosting the Bears, losing 26-24 as a 3-point underdog in Week 17, as they have in each of the teams’ past three matchups at Ford Field.

A much-cited reason for Detroit’s early success in 2013 is the advent of a running game through the acquisition of Reggie Bush and breakout of Joique Bell. But its defensive improvements are a more important factor.

Detroit ranks a respectable 15th in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA behind a front line of Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Willie Young and first-round pick Ezekiel Ansah that could be one of the NFL’s best.

Sports books have taken note. Some expressed shock at seeing Detroit at minus-3 against Chicago. The Lions were just a one-point favorite in the game over the summer in Cantor Gaming’s full-season lines.

Chicago has drawn more of the action early in the week, with Detroit minus-3 carrying decreased vig of even money at sports books across town.

The Sun’s contest leader is going against the grain, while one of the two with a losing record agrees with the public sentiment.

Check below for all of the Week 4 picks in the Sun’s handicapping contest. Games are listed in order of kickoff time.

 

Ray Brewer

Record: 9-8-1 (3-3 last week)

Lions minus-3 vs. Bears

Texans plus-3 vs. Seahawks

Browns plus-4 vs. Bengals

Steelers vs. Vikings over 42

Jets plus-4 at Titans

Eagles plus-10.5 at Broncos

 

Case Keefer (2012 champion)

Record: 8-10 (2-4 last week)

Bills plus-3.5 vs. Ravens

Giants plus-4.5 at Chiefs

Bears vs. Lions under 48

Chargers plus-2.5 vs. Cowboys

Falcons minus-2 vs. Patriots

Dolphins plus-6.5 at Saints

 

Taylor Bern

Record: 8-10 (3-3 last week)

Bears plus-3 at Lions

Giants plus-4.5 at Chiefs

Vikings plus-2.5 vs. Steelers

Cardinals plus-2 at Buccaneers

Bengals vs. Browns over 42

Saints minus-6.5 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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