Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/9/12
It’s the game of the season so far in the NFL on Sunday — with every team at least at its midway point — when the Houston Texans visit the Chicago Bears in a matchup of 7-1 Super Bowl contenders. The Bears opened as the slightest one-point favorites at Bovada, but considering home-field advantage is generally worth three points in the NFL, the Texans may be the pseudo-favorites. Could these two teams meet again in New Orleans at Super Bowl XLVII? That is a yes-only prop at the book at +1500. Houston essentially has a two-game lead for the best record in the AFC right now. There is only one team in the conference with six wins and that’s the Baltimore Ravens. Houston blew out the Ravens 43-13 at home in Week 7, and thus would have any head-to-head tiebreaker for playoff seeding. After Sunday’s game, the Texans are likely to be favorites in every game except for Week 14, a Monday nighter at New England. Houston does have a tough game at Detroit on Thanksgiving and faces the upstart Colts twice. Chicago is a game behind Atlanta for the NFC’s best record and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Bears’ first-half schedule appears much easier than what is to come. Chicago’s opponents this year are a combined 27-39 (.409) so far. The Bears will be underdogs for next Monday night’s game at San Francisco and close the season at home against Green Bay, at Arizona and at Detroit. Chicago doesn’t face Atlanta during the regular season. The Bears, who have won six in a row, lead the NFL in point differential at +116, and have won five of their seven games by at least 16 points. They are on pace to become the 11th team in the Super Bowl Era to outscore opponents by at least 240 points in a season. Chicago is also on pace to set a franchise record for points, largely because its defense has forced a league-high 28 turnovers and scored eight touchdowns. (By comparison, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offense has scored 11 total touchdowns all season.) Seven of those Chicago touchdowns have come on interception returns, which is two shy of the NFL record of nine set by the 1961 Chargers. Bovada offers a prop on whether the Bears get to at least 10; no is the -150 favorite and yes at +110. No team has turned the ball over less than Houston, which has thrown five interceptions and lost just one fumble. The Texans haven’t turned the ball over in the past two games, though the weather could play a factor Sunday night, as it will be in the 30s, and rainy and windy at Soldier Field. The Texans haven’t played there in eight years. The league’s two most disruptive defensive players — and the two leading candidates for NFL Defensive Player of the Year — will be on the field Sunday. Bears cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman has seven forced fumbles — his previous season-high was six and the NFL record is 10 — and two interceptions returned for touchdowns this season. Meanwhile, Houston defensive end J.J. Watt leads the NFL with 10.5 sacks and is the first NFL defensive lineman ever to bat down 10 passes through eight games, earning him the nickname “J.J. Swatt.” The second-year player out of Wisconsin has had at least a half sack in every game but one. Tillman and Watt are the only defensive players on Bovada’s NFL MVP odds: Watt at 18/1 and Tillman at 25/1. Tillman’s wife is due to give birth to the couple’s fourth child any day and there’s a slight chance Tillman could miss Sunday’s game if it happens that day. The Texans and Bears each have two other MVP candidates: Houston has running back Arian Foster (15/1) and quarterback Matt Schaub (40/1), and Chicago has quarterback Jay Cutler (40/1) and wide receiver Brandon Marshall (who is the longest shot at 100/1).
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