NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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Know Better
by Dennis Ranahan

The Chicago Bears have fans in the Windy City eyeing a playoff berth. They appear to have all the ingredients to be on the cusp of something special, and first-year head coach Matt Nagy seems to be the right man to lead an impressive roster of upcoming stars. The team got a big boost when they acquired one of the league’s truly dominate defensive players, linebacker Khalil Mack.

Mack joins a young team with expectations growing by the day.

Second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is showing signs of a quarterback that has a tremendous upside, and he is working with offensive weapons that mark the Bears a real threat. And then there's Mack, who makes the Bears defense that much better. He adds that final piece to a good solid defense that now possesses a true enforcer.

This week, the Bears take their show on the road to meet the Arizona Cardinals. The only thing the Bears and Cardinals have in common is they are under the direction of first-year head coaches.

While the Bears projections are straight up, the Cardinals are struggling for any glimmer of hope. Steve Wilks has lost his first two efforts as an NFL head coach, and neither game has been competitive. In their opener, the Cards were blown out on their home field by the Washington Redskins, and last week failed to score in a 34 point loss to the Los Angeles Rams. In total, the Cardinals have been outscored by a 58-6 margin … and to fans of the team the contests don’t even appear to be that close.

The Cardinals are going with one-time NFL top draft pick Sam Bradford at quarterback, and he has shown no signs of success with his new team. In the wings is top draft choice Josh Rosen, who may get his shot at running the team’s offense sooner than expected if Bradford doesn’t get the Cardinals offense into the endzone.

Their couldn’t be a starker contrast of expectations than the gap between the Bears and Cardinals. And, from all outward appearances, the enthusiasm in Chicago and apprehension in Arizona seems to be in line with their teams true outlooks.

But, the Cardinals do have one advantage this week, they know the challenge that awaits them in their contest with the Bears and know they have a mountain to climb in order to harbor any hope of beating their visitors on Sunday.

Conversely, the Bears come to town as confident as a snake about to pounce on a defenseless mouse. They have no call to action or need to play above their talent level … they just need to play as well as they did last week in beating the Seattle Seahawks or just as good as they did in their opening loss, a narrow setback to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, 24-23.

So, does the motivational edge the Cardinals own over the Bears really make a difference in what we can expect this Sunday at the University of Phoenix Stadium?

It doesn’t to the public betting on this game. Seventy-three percent of the wagers on this contest are taking the Bears and laying the points. But, it does mean something to the wise guys and where they see value in a point spread.

It is noteworthy that while nearly three of every four wagers on this game are backing the road favorite, the point spread on this contest has dropped from a high of Chicago by 6 points to the current line that has them favored by as few as 4½ points at some of the sharper books.

How can this be?

The amount of money coming in on the Cardinals from the wise guys is enough not only to offset the heavy public action on the other side but actually move the spread down? Do you know how much wise guy money has to be with the underdog in this spot to move a line more than point in the opposite direction of the public action?

A lot.

So, you can win this game for six days with all your buddies by simply agreeing with them that the Bears are going to claw the Cardinals this week. Or, you can win this game on Sunday with the wise guys … who know better.

Qoxhi Picks: Arizona Cardinals (+5) over Chicago Bears