Kansas City Chiefs at Chicago Bears (NBC, 8:20 p.m. ET)
It is a bit odd to have a non-conference game take this high profile of a spot on SNF in Week 16, but for someone like myself who predicted back in the summer that this year’s Super Bowl would be Chiefs vs Bears, I am alright with seeing it play out under the bright lights.
Only the Chiefs are able to pursue that championship this year, but with the pressure off of Chicago now could they end up thriving in the spoiler role? It’s been all Kansas City money so far this week on the side, pushing an opener of -4.5 up to -6, with the Bears season effectively over, but unless the Chiefs get some help from Buffalo on Saturday, or Miami in Week 17 – one or both have to beat New England outright in Foxboro, and KC would have to win out – they are likely locked into their spot as a home team during Wildcard weekend. So really, how much do the Chiefs have to play for right now?
But let’s try and work our way through this SNF game together, and after last week’s teaser play on Buffalo/Under got their with ease, let’s see if we can get a flat play to the cashier’s window this week.
This total opened up at 45 before early ‘under’ money pushed it down to 43.5. That number has since seen some resistance to get back up to 44.5 as of this writing, and it’s the latter of those two moves that I’ve got to side with. I say that the ‘over’ is the look here because of the potential ways both the offense and defense for Chicago approach this game.
Offensively for Chicago, there is no more pressure on their shoulders to win with the season’s goals now unattainable, and a free and loose offense is one that generally finds success. QB Mitchell Trubisky has been dragged through the mud by nearly everyone this year (fairly and unfairly at times), and not having all that pressure on his shoulders to perform has to be very freeing. He’s a guy that still probably has to show something in terms of entering next season as the starter, and to find success against a playoff-bound defense like Kansas City’s – who’s allowed 17 or fewer points in four straight games – would go a long way in that cause for Trubisky.
Furthermore, that Chiefs defense has shown improvement this year, and their last four weeks have been decent with those points allowed numbers, but I still wouldn’t suggest that they are a unit to be feared. They played Denver in the snow with a rookie QB, New England in wet and windy weather, an Oakland team who had no issues giving the ball away numerous times, and a Chargers team that did the same during that four-week run. And really, if the Chiefs rightfully believe/know (they’ll know what chance they’ll have at playing for a potential bye in the AFC before this one starts), how anxious will the defense be to go out there and risk injury and lay it all out on the line? I’d venture a guess that they might be quite vanilla in that case, and that’s only going to help Trubisky and company put up points.
But getting back to Chicago, defensively, the Bears have to be a bit of a question mark to show up at their best, as they know they’ve got nothing to play for. Who on that defense wants to spend the early part of their off-season rehabbing an injury they suffered in a meaningless Week 16 game? Professional pride will take over at times if they do want to compete, but if they don’t the Chiefs can probably pick their score. And if Chicago is going to end up looking like a team that’s simply going through the motions knowing their season is done, it’s going to show up more on the defensive side of things in all likelihood.
Even at their best, Chicago’s defense is still likely to give up multiple scores to this Chiefs attack (assuming they are at their best as well), and that’s why to me, the ‘over’ is something that does make a lot of sense here.