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TNF best bets: Struggling squads compare rebuilds

Michael Reaves / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Thursday night game is saved for niche matchups. You rarely find high-end NFC East rivals going at it in this time slot. What you usually get are two teams connected in some ostensible way.

In many cases, like with the Panthers and Bears this Thursday, there's no on-field connection. Carolina and Chicago completed the biggest deal of the offseason when the Panthers sent a haul of assets to the Bears for the first overall pick. Most of those assets have yet to become players on the field, and it's not like Bryce Young is a former Bear. So, we're left with DJ Moore's first meeting with his former squad in a matchup of teams with three combined wins. Thankfully, betting exists.

Panthers @ Bears (-3.5, 39.5)

The lookahead line for this game - before Sunday's results - was Bears -1.5. That line was built with the expectation that Justin Fields is ready to go. Then Carolina got beaten soundly at home by the Colts.

The line re-opened at Bears -2 but was bet up early in the week due to the market souring on the Panthers after Young's pair of pick-sixes and the hope that Fields will play. The line reached as high as -4 before it was announced that Fields' status was doubtful.

The question is now whether the point spread will cross back over the key number of -3 with Tyson Bagent getting his third consecutive start. While Bagent functions well with the basics - getting the offense lined up, knowing where the ball is supposed to go, escaping pressure when the pocket breaks down, and scrambling for the first down - he doesn't have the arm strength or accuracy to win enough games as a starter. Without the game-breaking talent of Fields, a fair price with Bagent in the game would be much closer to pick'em.

If the line were to plummet to where this game is a virtual toss-up, the Bears would be worth a bet, but as of this writing, we haven't seen that. Starting a position on the Panthers getting over a field goal is how to play it at current odds.

Pick: Panthers (+3.5)

Tyson Bagent: Over 0.5 interceptions (-140)

It's more juice than we're hoping to lay in this space, but Bagent's thrown six interceptions already. He'll try to squeeze throws into the places where you need to, but he doesn't have the arm talent to get them there. Plus, he's shown a tendency to overlook defenders and throw directly to an opponent. Expect Ejiro Evero to follow recent defensive coordinators who are able to confuse Bagent and force an errant throw.

Tyson Bagent: Anytime touchdown (+335)

Let's try a pair of long-shot touchdown bets and start with Bagent. He got comfortable with running last week, and it looked like the Bears factored his legs into the game plan. At one point, Bagent took off and dove for a first down on the sideline. If his turnover issues are in the back of his mind, he may be less likely to force a throw near the end zone and instead opt to take off himself.

Tommy Tremble: Anytime touchdown (+850)

Against the Colts, Hayden Hurst and Tommy Tremble were on the field for a total of 74 of 71 total snaps. Since the Week 7 bye, the Panthers have split snaps between the two, but Hurst's odds for a touchdown are half as long as Tremble's. Hurst's only touchdown came in Week 1, when Tremble wasn't playing much. Meanwhile, Tremble's got two one-yard touchdowns in his last four games and is clearly an option for Young by the goal line.

Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on social media @mrussauthentic.

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