The 2020 NFL season has gotten off to a charmed start for the 3-0 Chicago Bears, who’ve overcome double-digit fourth quarter deficits in two of their three wins so far this season and find themselves in an unexpected tie atop the NFC North with the Green Bay Packers.
The question facing Bears fans as their team heads into a Week 4 home game against the 2-1 Indianapolis Colts is how long can Chicago sustain this success? For sports bettors in the Indiana-Illinois-Ohio tri-state area, the question is how can we make a profit off a possible — or perhaps even likely — Bears’ collapse?
Elsewhere, the region’s third team, the 0-2-1 Cincinnati Bengals, will host the 1-2 Jacksonville Jaguars at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday afternoon, in a rare game where oddsmakers see the Bengals as favorites.
Fans of all three teams and others interested in sports wagering will travel to Indiana from eastern Illinois and southwestern Ohio to take advantage of the plethora of regulated, mobile sports betting platforms available in the Hoosier State. Sports wagering is currently illegal in Ohio, and although Illinois has legalized gambling on sports and recently launched online gaming, there are only three mobile sportsbooks to choose from in Illinois, compared to nine operating in Indiana.
Chicago Bears (3-0) vs. Indianapolis Colts (2-1)
The Bears may be undefeated and playing in Chicago against the Colts, but even the comfort level that comes with defending home turf at Soldier Field wasn’t enough to make them favorites in Week 4. At the time of publication, every major online sportsbook — from DraftKings to FanDuel to PointsBet — lists Chicago as a +2.5 underdog against the Colts. Moneyline bets on the Bears range from +112 at Unibet to +120, the highest current value, at BetMGM. The total points over/under line is currently holding steady at 42.5 and 43 points on Indiana’s mobile betting sites, down from an opening line of 46.
Chicago remains an underdog despite possessing home-field advantage and a better record than the Colts, and to understand why oddsmakers are hesitant to believe in the Bears, it helps to look at the quality of their wins. The Bears have beaten the Detroit Lions, New York Giants, and Atlanta Falcons, three teams with a combined record of 1-8 this season.
And it’s not as if Chicago trounced this trio of downtrodden squads — the Bears needed to stage double-digit comebacks in the fourth quarters against Detroit and Atlanta just to escape with those wins, and a late collapse in Week 2 against the Giants nearly cost the Bears another win. The Bears have given up more overall yards than they’ve gained this season and their opponents have outscored them by 19 points through three quarters in all their games. And yet Chicago is sitting pretty at 3-0.
Some will say that 3-0 is 3-0, no matter what a team did to get there. True enough, although sports gamblers may see opportunity in how the Bears achieved their undefeated record. If you believe the Bears are due for a rude awakening, then perhaps there’s value in only having to lay -130 at BetRivers for the Colts’ moneyline.
Bettors may also find value in shorting the Bears’ playoff hopes. Historically, NFL teams that begin the season 3-0 make it to the postseason about 75% of the time. Of the seven 3-0 teams in the league this year, the Bears seem most likely to fall into that other 25% of teams whose seasons come off the rails. Online sportsbooks are currently offering as much as +154 on futures bets that the Bears will not make the playoffs.
Similarly, if you believe the Bears will falter as the season goes on, then that almost assures the Green Bay Packers the NFC North title, since the division’s other two teams, the Lions and Minnesota Vikings, are already off to respective 1-2 and 0-3 starts. Oddsmakers recognize Green Bay as the wide favorite to win the division, but if you’re confident enough the Packers still might be worth the price at -190.
Cincinnati Bengals (0-2-1) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2)
Talk about two teams only a mother could love. The Bengals, coming off a Week 3 tie (better than a loss!) with the Philadelphia Eagles, are favored by a field goal over the Jaguars at all of the major Indiana mobile betting platforms. The total points over/under line ranges from 49 to 49.5, depending on which book you choose to bet with. DraftKings currently offers the best moneyline odds on Cincinnati to win at -157, while BetMGM’s +140 on Jacksonville is of slightly better value than the odds offered at other sportsbooks, if you think the Jags can pull out the road win.
Bengals fans in Cincinnati and across the Ohio River in Indiana, if they’re looking for something hopeful to cling to in this contest between two teams unlikely to make this year’s NFL playoffs, probably have to focus on rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, who looks more impressive every time he steps on the field for a new game. Last Sunday, Burrow threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
Problem is, the Bengals offensive line appears to have been constructed from Swiss cheese and cotton candy, and Burrow absorbed 8 sacks and 18 quarterback hits from the Eagles, and the Cleveland Browns roughed him up just as much in Week 2. Burrow has maintained his composure and played remarkably well under such pressure, but for the sake of the franchise’s future and the hope that someday in the not too distant future, Cincinnati fans might be able to confidently wager futures bets on their team to make the playoffs or win the AFC North, somebody please protect that young man!