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Bet on it: ‘Under’ pressure for Matt Nagy?

Bettors who recall the history of low first-half scores during the coach’s tenure can win big.

Matt Nagy
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy reacts to a call against his team during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, in Chicago.
Kamil Krzaczynski/AP

LAS VEGAS — The Bulls and Blackhawks begin their respective seasons over the next week and a half, but we’d be derelict to not trumpet one of the sweetest current sports trends that happens to involve the Bears.

Under fourth-year coach Matt Nagy, the Under in the first half of Bears games is 36-17. Second-generation Vegas oddsmaker Kenny White presented this gem here in a preseason preview, and it’s 4-0 this season.

A bettor using $100 as an average wager — or unit, actually $110 to win $100 — is up 17.3 units, or $1,730, with this action over the past 38 months.

Sunday against the Lions at Soldier Field, the Bears led 14-0 at halftime. The first-half total was 21 at the South Point, differing little around town.

For the Bears’ game here Sunday against the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium, Panama-based BetOnline posted a midweek first-half total of 22.

“That screams bad in-week coaching and bad game plans, offensively, and poor preparation off of film study,” said Long Island-based handicapper Tom Barton. “It also means the exact opposite for the defensive coordinator.”

Sean Desai, a Bears defensive assistant for eight years, replaced Chuck Pagano as defensive coordinator in May. The Bears made Nagy a first-time NFL head coach in 2018.

“I also believe it has a lot to do with the age and effectiveness of the Bears’ defenders,” said Barton, tapping 30-year-old linebacker Khalil Mack and 31-year-old defensive tackle Akiem Hicks.

“A lot of these guys are older and they’ve been playing through injuries the past few seasons. They get a week to rest, come out in the early part of a game and are fresh.”

In the summer, the Westgate SuperBook lined every game of the NFL season. The Bears were favored four times, and they won those first two. They were also favored Week 12 at Detroit and Week 17 at home against the Giants.

It would doom Nagy, no matter who’s playing quarterback, if the Bears win just those four games. At +275, he and Jacksonville’s Urban Meyer are the OddsChecker favorites to be the first NFL coach to get fired.

For now, raise a pint to the continuation of a glorious first-half Under run.

GROWING PAINS

The NBA and NHL both have returned to 82-game schedules, and the Bulls begin their season at Detroit on Oct. 20.

Their regular season-wins total is 42.5 at the South Point, suggesting the Bulls might have a winning campaign. They last won at least 43 games in 2014-15, at 50-32. They were 31-41 in coach Billy Donovan’s debut last season.

“I like the addition of some exciting young guards with a few savvy veterans,” said Against the Number handicapper Noah Parker.

Ayo Dosunmu, fresh out of Illinois, fourth-year players Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, and quick-trigger shooter Coby White provide backcourt depth. Parker favors Caruso’s championship pedigree (with the Lakers in 2019-20).

The high-flying Zach LaVine, whose eighth season will be his fifth for the Bulls, is “the face of the team,” said Parker. Men’s Journal tapped LaVine as the game’s fifth-most-exciting modern-era dunker.

Parker calls the addition of small forwards DeMar DeRozan and Derrick Jones Jr., along with last season’s additions of power forward Patrick Williams and center Nikola Vucevic positive moves. However, he doesn’t predict instant success.

“The Under is a solid play,” said Parker. “The Bulls will be more durable and stronger in a few years. For now, I would wait out the growing pains. There’s so much youth and inexperience.

“That could be a problem as I’ve seen Billy Donovan struggle with young talent in the past after a team rebuilds.”

RAINING GOALS

John the Barber, the resident NHL tout at the South Point, has marveled at the waves of preseason scoring, due in part to the league’s stricter cross-checking enforcement.

That creates more power plays — hence, more goals. The gregarious barber known as John Taddio recommends betting on Over game totals early this season.

“I’ve never seen as many goals as I’ve seen this preseason,” said the Buffalo native. “That’s big. New Jersey, in every game, is scoring five, six, seven, eight goals!”

Monday, the Blackhawks beat Detroit 6-4. In upstate New York, Steve Bennett, founder of the Sports-Casters podcast, noted that new Chicago keeper Marc-André Fleury stopped 36 of 40 shots.

The Blackhawks open against Colorado on Wednesday in Denver. In their last four seasons, they have a high of 84 points (2018-19). Their season-points total at the South Point is 90.5, -110 both ways.

If forced to wager, Bennett would bet on Under.

“Could be a lot of that,” he said of the high number of shots Fleury faced. “That’s certainly not the team he had in front of him in Vegas.”

Barton taps the Islanders Over 98.5 points, Panthers Under 102.5 and Wild Under 97.5.

As he did masterfully with the Padres this past winter, Barton will watch the public inflate the Vegas total (currently at 106.5) a bit more before making an Under wager on the Golden Knights.

Taddio is partial to Florida at 20-1 (down from 30-1) and New Jersey at 60-1 (trimmed from 100-1) to win the Stanley Cup. For potential long-shot value, he suggests Detroit, at 150-1, to win the Atlantic Division.