Baltimore at Chicago (-3)
Baltimore saved its season, temporarily at least, with an OT win against the Bengals last week, while the Bears once again lost QB Jay Cutler for at least one more start in their tough home loss to the Lions, which knocked Chicago out of a first place tie in the NFC North.
So, the Bears are back to Josh McCown (103 passer rating, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, in limited action) at QB this week. Truth be told, McCown had more success moving the Bears’ offense last week than did the hobbled Cutler, so a healthy McCown probably represents an upgrade over an injured Cutler.
Baltimore continues to sink or swim with the disappointing Joe Flacco (77 passer rating), who submitted another lousy effort against Cincinnati last week, a game won primarily because Baltimore’s defense forced three big turnovers.
These teams usually bring it on defense, but 2013 has been a very different year for each of them. Both Chicago and Baltimore have struggled against the pass, ranking No. 19 and No. 20, respectively, in Defensive Passer Rating, and No. 24 and No. 20, respectively, in Defensive Real QB Rating.
The Bears have been completely horrible at preventing big plays, ranking dead last in Defensive Real Passing YPA. Baltimore does, however, have our No. 1-ranked Defensive Hogs and shuts down the run quite effectively (No. 3 in Defensive Rusher Rating). That should make for a very good matchup against Chicago’s No. 4 Offensive Hogs (No. 6 in Offensive Rusher Rating).
This is a tight matchup overall, but Chicago, because of its superior passing offense. McCown in his limited appearances has thrown 4 TD with 0 INT, with a 103.2 rating. So the Bears boast sizable edges in both Passer Rating Differential and Real QB Rating Differential. Also, the Ravens are just 1-4 on the road this year.
Chicago, meanwhile, has played better overall (No. 13 vs. No. 17 on the Relativity Index) while facing a tougher schedule. Take the home team to cover.
Pick: Chicago 26, Baltimore 20