Green Bay Packers (4-1) at Chicago Bears (3-2)
The Bears are somehow 3-2, but their three wins haven’t been that impressive. They beat a middling Bengals team by 3 in a game in which they won the turnover battle by 3, but lost the yards per play battle by 1.22, which is much more predictive than turnover margin. They beat a Lions team that is 0-5 on the season. And last week they beat a Raiders team that needed two overtime wins to get to 3-1 and that was likely distracted by the situation with head coach Jon Gruden. Meanwhile, the Bears two losses came in uncompetitive games against the Rams and Browns.
Their once dominant defense is not nearly as good as it once was, losing key personnel over the past few off-seasons and dealing with injuries to key players this season, including both Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack, who figure to be noticeably limited this week even if they can suit up. Overall, they rank 13th in yards per play allowed and it’s not hard to see how that would get worse if Hicks and/or Mack missed significant time, while their offense ranks 28th in first down rate. They are probably in better shape with rookie Justin Fields under center rather than Andy Dalton, but he also hasn’t been the spark this offense needs and he has a very underwhelming offensive supporting cast, in large part due to key injuries at the offensive tackle and running back positions.
However, I think the public realizes the Bears are not as good as their record, as they remain 6-point home underdogs against the Packers. The Packers are 4-1, but they haven’t been as good as their record and, unlike the Bears, I don’t think the public realizes that. Two of their wins came on last second field goals, while their other two wins came in games in which they struggled to separate at home from inferior teams in the Steelers and Lions. And of course, their week one blowout loss in New Orleans can’t be completely ignored yet.
It’s easy to think this is the same Packers team as a year ago, but with left tackle David Bakhtiari, cornerback Jaire Alexander, and edge defender Za’Darius Smith all out, this just isn’t as talented of a team as a year ago. Those are three of the best players in the NFL at their respective positions and the most important Packers outside of Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, so they can’t just be replaced, even if the Packers have managed to continue winning in relatively unimpressive fashion. On top of that, Rodgers isn’t quite playing at his MVP level from a year ago.
This is still a good team, but they shouldn’t be regarded as if they were the same team as a year ago. Rodgers also has about a 10 point drop in QB rating on the road in his career, which is well above average for a quarterback, which is a concern if you want to take the Packers as 6 point road favorites here in Chicago. There isn’t enough here for the Bears to be worth betting, but they should be the better side for pick ‘em purposes, as this is more likely than not to be a close game.
Green Bay Packers 24 Chicago Bears 20
Pick against the spread: Chicago +6