There is no more appropriate way to kick off the NFL’s 100th season than with the sport’s oldest and greatest rivalry, as the Chicago Bears host the Green Bay Packers Thursday night at Soldier Field.
These storied NFC North foes enter this game with reversed roles, as it’s now the Bears and their vaunted defense who enter the season as the favorites to win the division, instead of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Either way, oddsmakers are expecting another close contest between these heated rivals with the Bears listed as 3-point home faves. So, who has the edge? From the opening kickoff to the final whistle, we break down the best ways to wager the opening game of the 2019-20 NFL season.
So, it’s Year 2 of the Khalil Mack era with the Bears, and boy, did Rodgers hate having the former Raider in his division. With Mack at the helm, the Bears limited the Packers to an average of 20.5 points per game in their two meetings last season. They also got to Packers quarterbacks for nine sacks and two picks (albeit one against DeShone Kizer).
Most impressively though, they shut out Rodgers and the Packers in the first quarter in both of last year’s matchups. Now, the difference this time around will be new head coach Matt LaFleur and the new-look Packers offense. But with this being opening night, and the Bears crowd should be roaring early, and we like them to enter the second quarter with a lead.
Pick: Bears -0.5 First Quarter Spread
It may seem like overkill. But the Bears defense was really, really good in both of these matchups (despite a fourth quarter collapse in the opening game last season). And well, in general. Not only did the Bears give Rodgers fits, they stifled the ground game, limiting Packers running backs to just 3.5 yards per carry. The result? Green Bay scored a total of three, count ‘em three, first half points in those two games with the Bears.
Like we mentioned, it will be interesting to see the marriage between LaFleur and Rodgers comes together. There are rumors that coach and quarterback don’t exactly see eye-to-eye when it comes to audibles at the line, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out early on. And with Mitchell Trubisky under center for the Bears, who knows what’s in store for the Bears offense.
Pick: Under 23 First Half Total
One thing we do know about Matt Nagy and his offense, is that apparently every single person in the Bears organization is in love with rookie running back David Montgomery. The Iowa State product got rave reviews out of camp and with Jordan Howard now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, there are 250 carries up for grabs. The Bears offensive line is a cohesive unit and is fully healthy and while the Packers defense could make see improvements this season, the run defense still has some holes, particularly at linebacker. We like the nation’s leader in broken tackles to cross the goal line in his NFL debut.
Pick: David Montgomery to Score a TD (+125)
FULL GAME TOTAL
This matchup went 1-1 Over/Under last season, which made many Under bettors sick in Week 1 last year, after the Packer’s 21-point fourth quarter comeback. Even with that outburst, these teams combined to score 44 points per game.
While it will be hard for Chicago to repeat the kind of defensive numbers they had from a season ago, with Mack leading the way, this unit is the one that can do it. Chuck Pagano steps in at defensive coordinator for the Bears after Vic Fangio got the head coaching vacancy in Denver, so there shouldn’t be much of a drop off there.
But it feels like Trubisky is the only thing that can could the Bears back this season. His inconsistencies from a year ago were infuriating to Bears fans. His accuracy was all over the place and threw for over 250 yards just four times last season. If the Bears want to take the step, Trubisky has to first.
Pick: Under 46.5
FULL GAME SIDE
That said, the Bears were a double-doink from being in the NFC Championship game, and who knows what else. Any kind of improvement from Trubisky is a bonus.
While it really seems like chemistry could be an issue between LaFleur (a Kyle Shanahan/Sean McVay disciple) and Rodgers. LaFleur’s offense relies on precise route running and is supposed to get the defense to show its hand pre-snap. But Rodgers loves getting a read from the line. So, it’s going to be really interesting to see how it all plays out.
All things considered: The Bears. At home. Opening night. Close your eyes Bears fans. Buy the half-point to lay 2.5 with the home team as this game could come down to *gasp* a field goal.
Pick: Bears Alternate Spread -2.5