Ah, but for a bona-fide classic pigskin game in the United Kingdom. Not an exhibition game, or a glorified preseason like the World League, or any of the snooze-errific regular-season scrums that Londoners have been subjected to over the past 10+ years.
I’m a firm believer that low-scoring football isn’t necessarily bad football – but even the low-scoring contests held in London have been 1-sided. The NFL’s current international series actually began with 2 of the closer games in 2007 and 2008 but soon fell into a stretch of mostly lopsided stinkers.
Oh, sure, the last 2 meetings have kept Brits glued to their seats through 4 quarters. (It helps, of course, that more and more overseas kickoffs are being added all the time.) The Chargers squeaked by the Titans 20-19 last October, and the Eagles nipped the Jaguars 24-18 a week later, but none of those 4 clubs were trending up in the big picture, or playing exceptionally fun styles at the time.
The Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders are trending up, and they are fun. Oakland threatened to turn into a circus in preseason thanks to Antonio Brown’s big mouth, massive ego, and creepy past – but Jon Gruden waved goodbye to the wideout just in the nick of time and the Silver & Black now stands at a hopeful 2-2. Chicago is taking the usual ribbing over the team’s quarterback play, but it’s been good enough to help earn a 3-1 record.
NFL odds-makers like the Bears to win in a relatively low-scoring game, reflecting how the season is going for the Monsters of the Midway so far.
Who: Chicago Bears vs Oakland Raiders
When: Sunday, October 6th, 1 PM EST
Where: Northumberland Development Project at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, UK
Lines: CHI (-5.5) vs OAK (+5.5) / O/U Total: (40)
I write a lot of English football predictions, and it’s weird how so much of the grammar along with the rules and terminology change from sport to sport and continent to continent. In America we say “the Green Bay Packers” or “the Packers” wheras many old-school bloggers from the Kingdom refer to a nickname as if it’s some type of brand quality on its own, removing the “the”s in “80,000 saw Packers beat Vikings in a corker.”
Bears matches up with Raiders…ahem. The Bears would match up with the Raiders pretty well given that we knew the Chicago offense would hum along OK, but that’s not the case as Sunday’s NFC representatives are down to Chase Daniel at QB again.
As Boston Globe sportswriter Marisa Ingemi has pointed out, Chase Daniel is a grammatically proper sentence. He’s also the only QB the Chicago Bears will have at their disposal for a while, and he can’t put his head down and run for 1st downs the way Mitch Trubisky can. A windy day in London could portend a tighter game than usual, and the Raiders might be getting overlooked as a .500 team that knows the smell of blood in the water.
It’s not all peaches and cream for Oakland though. Raider linebacker Vontaze Burfict inflicted another dirty hit on a defenseless receiver in Jack Doyle last week, and the league has taken swift action and suspended him for the season. A lifetime ban could be soon to follow.
The Raiders were able to pull out a road win over the Colts, who were without star WR T.Y. Hilton, as a late pick-6 by S Eric Harris sealed a 31-24 victory for the boys in black.
Chicago’s starting LB corps has no suspension issues – yet. Khalil Mack is eager to face his old team, and hasn’t forgotten it was Gruden who traded him away to Chicago to load up on draft picks. The mighty defense of the Bears held NFL leading-rusher Dalvin Cook to just 35 yards on 14 attempts in a 16-6 Week 4 victory. Chicago has sacked the quarterback 17 times and intercepted 4 passes.
Chicago has been out-playing bookmakers’ expectations for about the last calendar year, with only a small handful of exceptions in which the Bears disappointed ATS. It speaks to how little Trubisky’s skills are regarded in Las Vegas when the lines don’t even move much after the QB is ruled out for multiple football games.
Daniel is also the type of passer who could excel in a jet-lagged environment, even though the timing of this particular London scrum lends itself to more standard biorhythmic preparation for a “noon” NFL kickoff.
Defenses often struggle when not fully warmed up and tuned-in. But we rarely see more than 1 offense play well for the entire game in the slate of overseas results. Daniel’s nickel-and-dime style is likely to produce field goal drives for the Bears while the Raiders fail and flail and rely on the deep ball by the 2nd quarter, and Chicago’s defense could always produce some points on its own.
But if Chicago’s QB has the zippy-quick release that can aid a team trying to find footing far from home, Derek Carr of Oakland has the arm to challenge the Bears deep.
Go with the Over – preferably the in-play over at below (40) following a deceptive 1st quarter of almost no scoring.