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Chicago heads to Seattle in a matchup of two exciting quarterbacks perhaps held back by their coaches. Here's how to play it.
ANALYSIS

Chicago Bears vs. Seattle Seahawks Prediction: What Bet Best Leverages the Nagy vs. Carroll Experience?

Chicago Bears vs. Seattle Seahawks Key Note

  • The Bears and Seahawks rank 29th and 30th, respectively, in total offensive yards.

Chicago Bears vs. Seattle Seahawks Pick

  • Bet: 1H Under 20.5 (-110)
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Chicago heads to Seattle for a matchup that should be about two exciting quarterbacks, but is instead more about two head coaches stuck in a bygone era of football, especially in terms of how the sport has evolved to prioritize passing, tempo, and aggressive play-calling. 

After struggling over his first few games back from hand surgery, Russell Wilson has played a little better of late, though he’s continued to have moments of uncharacteristic inaccuracy, like Week 15’s underthrown deep ball to D.K. Metcalf, who had burned Jalen Ramsey for a should-have-been touchdown. The Seahawks are just not a good team when Wilson is not at top form, with limited weapons outside their two key wide receivers, a poor defense, and an unhelpful coaching staff. Wilson is expected to have Tyler Lockett back, which is pretty massive as Metcalf and Lockett are among the league’s most entrenched top receiving duos with limited support behind them. 

Seattle has run the fewest plays in the NFL by a mile, and it’s shocking because it’s mostly by their own design. Where the offenses that typically run the fewest plays in the league tend to be the ones who can’t gain yardage, Seattle ranks 18th in the NFL in yards per play, a full yard better than the Texans (5.5 to 4.5), who rank 31st in total plays run. Other than the Seahawks, no other team in the bottom 12 of the league in total offensive yardage averages more than 5.1 yards per play. Some of the Seahawks’ 5.5 yards per play figure is relative to their big-play rate with Wilson’s ability to hit Lockett and Metcalf downfield, and they struggle at times to just move the chains, but it’s still difficult to fathom how they operate at such a slow pace as if they almost don’t want to gain too much yardage. 

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The Bears operate somewhat similarly, especially when Justin Fields is under center. While they’ve been more willing to open things up and throw the ball on early downs when Andy Dalton is at quarterback, Chicago tends to call things very conservatively with their rookie in the game. In Week 15, their early-down play-calling was directly attributable to their lack of points through three quarters, while their three fourth-quarter drives — after they’d reached desperation mode and started calling nearly all passes — all reached the red zone. For the game, the Bears averaged +0.22 expected points added per play on early-down pass plays, and at least -0.40 EPA per play on everything else, from early-down runs to all late-down plays. You don’t really need to understand the nuances of EPA to recognize the issue there. 

One potential positive note for Chicago is offensive coordinator Bill Lazor should be back, after missing last week due to COVID-19. That left head coach Matt Nagy in charge of calling plays, and Nagy has shown a lot less creativity as a play-caller this season, particularly when Fields is under center. But that doesn’t fix everything — Nagy has seemed to exert his influence all season, if we’re to take his word for it from his various press conferences.

There may be no coaches in the NFL who believe there is value in things like “feeling out” the opponent more than these two, preventing them from ever capitalizing by running away with a game when things are going their way, and often finding themselves out of a game when an opponent does push things early. The Seahawks have gone for fewer fourth downs and punted more than any other team, while the Bears do go for it at a decent rate, but often take the decision away from themselves with playcall decisions like running on 2nd-and-long. 

Both teams tend to speed things up in the second halves, where they rank higher in the league in seconds per snap than their first-half paces. The full-game over/under in this one is rightfully low, and there should be at least some concern about how the second half might go if Wilson can hit on a few deep shots, or their poor defense creates opportunities for the Bears. So the play for me here is pretty clear — I’m taking the first-half under to best leverage what these teams are. 

Chicago Bears vs. Seattle Seahawks Line Movement

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Ben knows his football. A fantasy football expert who was most recently seen at CBS Sports, he'll be helping bettors find value ahead in the NFL with OddsChecker.

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