Chicago Bears (1-0) at Green Bay Packers (0-1)
This is the game of the week right here. I’ve been high on the Bears all offseason, naming them as one of my underrated teams. In fact, I thought they were the 2nd best team in the NFC, but couldn’t have them winning the division because the Packers were just so good. Well, the Packers aren’t looking so good anymore. Aaron Rodgers has, believe it or not, dropped 3 of his last 4 starts, including two straight at home.
It hasn’t really been his fault. His defense is way too reliant on turnovers and can’t stop anyone without them. In their last 3 games where they failed to force a turnover, they’ve lost. It’s very tough to predict turnover totals on a yearly basis. Teams with 35 or more have had 10.58 fewer turnovers in their next season. The Packers can’t expect to force the 38 turnovers they did last year. They’ll have to get better defensively.
I thought the addition of 3 key contributors through the draft and potential bounce back years from BJ Raji and Tramon Williams would allow this team to bounce back; after all Dom Caper is one of the better defensive coordinators in the game and they had the league’s 2nd ranked scoring defense in 2010, but I guess not. They made Alex Smith look like Joe Montana in the opener, blowing numerous coverages, failing to stuff the run, and only pressuring Smith on 7 dropbacks, fewest in the NFL last week. If they can’t improve defensively, their offense won’t be able to get onto the field to do what they do best and the Packers could fairly well be this year’s team that goes from a 1st round bye to out of the playoffs. They can’t afford to go down 0-2 at home to start the season.
Unfortunately, things don’t get any easier here for the Packers. The Bears might be the best team in the NFL and if they aren’t, they are certainly up there. They can compete with the Packers, at the very least. They blew out an underrated Colts team last week to start this season. In 2010, they went 11-5 and made it to the NFC Championship game. In 2011, they started out 7-3 before injuries struck to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. Cutler and Forte are back. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are in and both had great debuts. And their offensive line doesn’t look as overmatched as they did under Mike Martz, allowing Cutler to be pressured on just 11 of 37 drop backs. And then, of course, they still have one of the league’s better defenses.
The Bears were one of my underrated teams coming into the season. The idea was to bet them until I was proven wrong or the odds makers caught up. The good news is that the odds makers don’t seem to have caught up, chalking last week’s win up to their strength of opponent, even though I think the Colts are also underrated. This line is -6 in Lambeau. At the very least, given the way the Packers played last week, this line should be -3, to indicate these teams are about even, so there’s line value here. And don’t worry about betting against Aaron Rodgers after a loss. He’s just 4-5 ATS in his career as a favorite after losing as a favorite. Besides, while I expect the Packers to come out with incredible urgency to try to avoid an 0-2 start, I expect the Bears to come out with a similar level of urgency in a statement game and a chance to put the Packers at a huge disadvantage early.
Jay Cutler and company should be able to move the ball with ease against this Packers defense. Aaron Rodgers and company should be able to do the same against the Bears’ defense, as good as they are, because Rodgers has proven that you can’t really stop him. You can just limit him. Even last week, he was 30 of 44 for 303 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a pick against the 49ers’ vaunted defense. That’s not a bad week statistically. The Packers will move the ball here. However, the Bears are a much more well rounded team, like the 49ers were last week. One injury of note for the Packers, Greg Jennings is unlikely to play. The Packers have a deep receiving corps, so that loss might not be huge, but he is their #1 receiver so his absence can’t be ignored.
I’m taking the Bears to win and cover as 6 point underdogs, though I’m a lot more confident about the latter than the former. This figures to be an evenly matched game, so even if the Bears do lose, it probably won’t be by very much. This is a tight rivalry historically. Before 2 contests last year, the last 6 matchups between these two have been decided by 7 points or less. What happened last year? Well, in their 1st matchup, the Bears lost by 10, but should have lost by 3 if not for a phantom penalty bringing back a Devin Hester return for a touchdown. I can only assume the refs had Packers -4 in that one. In their 2nd matchup, Cutler and Forte were both out, but the Bears still managed to keep it within 14 even though the Packers were 13-1 heading into that contest and the Bears had lost their 2 best offensive players and 4 straight. That says a lot about how seriously they take this rivalry, as do the Packers, so this one will be close either way most likely, now that the two sides are more evenly matched.
Public lean: Green Bay (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Chicago covers)
Chicago Bears 31 Green Bay Packers 27 Upset Pick +240
Pick against spread: Chicago +6 (-105) 4 units