Fresh off clinching their first division title since 2010, the Chicago Bears will hit the road in Week 16 to face the San Francisco 49ers. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:05 EST on Sunday, December 23, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Fans in certain markets can watch the game on Fox.
Oddsmakers list the Bears as 3.5-point favorites on the road. The over/under for the game is set at 42.5 points. Click here to check out a full list of the Week 16 betting odds in the NFL.
With last week’s win over the Packers, the Bears are now winners of seven of their last eight games and champions of the NFC North. Chicago has now secured a home playoff game, but they also have a chance to earn a first-round bye. With the Rams losing two in a row, the Bears are just one game back of them in the conference standings. Thanks to Chicago’s win over the Rams a couple of weeks ago, the Bears would win a tiebreaker between the two teams.
Of course, catching the Rams for the no. 2 seed in the NFC would likely mean winning their two remaining games and hoping the Rams lose one more game during the final two weeks of the season. Such a scenario is possible but not necessarily likely. It would also prevent the Bears from resting players the final two weeks of the season if that’s something they want to consider.
As for the 49ers, they appear to be making a late-season push to avoid having the worst record in the NFL. A win over an under-manned Broncos team a couple of weeks ago wasn’t a huge surprise. But the 49ers also pulled off a shocking overtime win over the Seahawks last week. Even with back-to-back wins, the 49ers are just 4-10 on the season. However, it’s clear that San Francisco has no intention of throwing in the towel late in the season, which is nice to see with the Bears and Rams left on their schedule the last two weeks of the season.
While I commend the 49ers for winning back-to-back games and wanting to finish strong, I’m not buying a third straight win for San Francisco. There’s been no indication that the Bears are going to rest players or take their foot off the gas this week. More importantly, the Bears are the better team. Also, all but one of their wins this year has been by at least five points. I have no problem eating the points and leaning toward Chicago to cover.
In addition to clinching the division last week, the Bears had to be thrilled with Mitchell Trubisky. The second-year quarterback struggled against the Rams in his return from a two-week absence. But he got back on track last week, albeit against a lackluster Green Bay defense. Trubisky completed 20 of his 28 passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also completed passes to eight different receivers, getting back to spreading the ball around to a multitude of playmakers. When Trubisky does that, he and the Chicago offense are at their best.
In fairness, the San Francisco defense has been solid the past couple of weeks. But they also faced a Denver offense with a subpar quarterback and no established skill players. Last week, they gave up nearly 400 yards against an offense they faced two weeks prior. In short, I’m going to pump the brakes on the 49ers being anything better than just barely average on defense. For the most part, they haven’t exactly excelled at stopping the run or pressuring the quarterback this year, so I can see them struggling against Chicago’s balanced attack.
On the other side of the ball, I remain unconvinced by the San Francisco offense. To be fair, Nick Mullens has been better in recent weeks. He’s thrown for at least 275 yards in three straight games, looking increasingly comfortable playing at this level. However, the 49ers are still averaging just over 20 points per game during that stretch, and that’s with a kickoff return for a touchdown helping them out last week. Also, the 49ers may be without running back Matt Breida, who re-aggravated his ankle injury last week. Even if he does play, he probably won’t be 100%.
We also can’t overlook the impact the Chicago defense can have on a game. Last week, the Bears became just the second team this season to force an interception out of Aaron Rodgers. The Bears have been a turnover machine this year, and there’s always a chance that Chicago gets a touchdown from their defense, especially against an inexperienced quarterback like Mullens. If that happens, it’ll make it even easier for the Bears to cover the spread.
Admittedly, this is a trap game for the Bears. But Chicago has to know how big a first-round bye would be, so I think they’ll remain motivated to win this game. I also don’t want to overreact too much to the 49ers winning two straight games. To me, 3.5 points is a reasonable spread, so I’ll eat the points and take the Bears to cover.