Chicago Bears (1-5 SU, 1-5 ATS) vs. Green Bay Packers (3-2 SU, 2-2-1 ATS)
NFL Week 7
Date/Time: Thursday, October 20 at 8:25pm
Where: Lambeau Field
TV: CBS/NFL Network
by Evergreen, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CHI +9/GB -9
Over/Under Total: 47
Division rivalries make for some of the best matchups week-to-week and it is extra special when you are talking about the most played rivalry in NFL history. The Bears and Packers will square off this Thursday night for the 193rd time in this storied rivalry and there is plenty on the line for both teams as we head through the midpoint of the season. Chicago stands at 1-5 but could be a particularly painful thorn if they can bounce a reeling Green Bay squad. The Packers will try to right the ship after being dominated in last weeks action to the point where some are wondering if coaches or the GM should be fired. There is no love lost, you can throw out the records and several other clichs are dripping off this matchup, it should be a fun watch.
Despite the scuffles last week, Green Bay has been tabbed as a nine point favorite at most online betting sites. The favorite has gone 9-2 against the spread in the last eleven meetings between the teams and Green Bay has done well against the division in general, winning 21-of-31 ATS against NFC North opponents. Chicago has just seven ATS wins in their last 22 games in division and is 1-4 against the spread in the last five on Thursday night. The new Sagarin predictor has the 11th rated Packers beating the 31st rated Bears by an average score of 24.13 to 16.56, which points to a Chicago cover and the under.
If you go all the way back to 1921, Chicago has a slight edge in the history of this series but the Aaron Rodgers era has been owned by Green Bay. The Pack is 10-3 since 2010, including one playoff game and many of the games havent been close, the 55-14 rout in 2014 in particular. Chicago did pull the 17-13 upset last Thanksgiving, marking Jay Cutlers first ever win at Lambeau but you have to go back to 2007 to find the last time the Bears have won two in a row against the Packers.
Given that this game is being played on short rest, injuries are going to be a big deal, especially for Green Bay. Davante Adams, Bryan Bulaga and Eddie Lacy are banged up and listed as day-to-day with various ailments. James Starks is out indefinitely, prompting Green Bay to call up practice squad RB Don Jackson just to provide another healthy body in the backfield. The Packers also traded a late round draft pick to Kansas City to acquire Knile Davis to further bolster the ailing backfield. Sam Shields will likely miss another week with a concussion and CB Damarious Randall may miss his second game, leaving some holes in the Green Bay secondary. Jay Cutler is likely missing another game with a bad thumb although his career in Chicago is in question aside from the injury as Brian Hoyer has thrown for 300 yards in each of his four games as Cutlers replacement. WR Eddie Royal is battling a toe injury and could miss the game as could CB Deiondre Hall. Both teams are dinged up but Green Bay has the short end of the stick in the injury department for sure.
The most oft asked question among NFL talking heads right now is whats wrong with Aaron Rodgers? The standard-bearer for the QB position over the last few seasons has fallen on some hard times and the Packers offense has struggled mightily as a result. Rodgers is missing passes, turning the ball over and battling ineffectiveness in general over what is essentially a full season now. Green Bay fans love to pick on Cutler for his attitude and play but there is no real statistical difference between Rodgers and Cutler over the last sixteen games. The Packers cant win with that level of quarterback play as their offense is too centered on Rodgers making the right read and then the accurate throw. He isnt doing that right now and Green Bay has fallen to 25th in passing yards per game and 26th in total yards. They are averaging 22.8 points per game, good for 17th in the NFL and they are firmly a back-half of the league offense overall. Eddie Lacy has done well in spots and averages over five yards per carry but he has yet to find the endzone and his slower, bruising style almost conflicts with the up-tempo passing game. Lacy could be used heavily to wear down the Bears 18th ranked run defense but he is battling an iffy ankle so he could be limited with the short turnaround. The bottom line is that Rodgers needs to play better and needs to find Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb in spots where they can run after the catch. If that happens, this is still a potent offense.
Chicago has had no issues moving the ball, ranking 7th in total yards and 4th in passing but they have not converted those yards into points and enter the week dead last in points at 16.8 per game. Hoyer has yet to throw a pick since taking over but the redzone efficiency is lacking and the Bears are often playing from behind. Jordan Howard looks like a great young back but he is facing a tough task against the 7th ranked run defense. Zeke Elliott and the Cowboys ran all over Green Bay last week but Chicago doesnt have that caliber of offensive line and I think the edge belongs to the Packrers defense against the rush. Alshon Jeffery is still trying to get on the same page with Hoyer but he and Cameron Meredith look like a tough duo to bottle up. Meredith has back-to-back 100 yards receiving games and Jeffery should find his groove as a redzone target anytime now. Zach Miller is Hoyers favorite target and could have a big game against a Green Bay defense that has trouble covering the middle of the field. Chicagos defense isnt scary but they arent bad either. There are a lot of middle range stats and they have gotten pressure on the quarterback consistently with 13 sacks so far, six from Willie Young. The book now says that you dont blitz Rodgers but you still need to get some pressure on him from the front four and it appears that Chicago could do that.
It has been a close but no cigar effort for Chicago in many weeks already and I think they are in for another such outcome. Lambeau has mostly been a house of horrors for the Bears but they can hang with a Packers team that isnt firing on all cylinders. By most measures, Green Bay has played one good half of football this season. That came in week three when they got up big on the Lions but they only won that game by seven. They are plus-one in point differential for the season and double digit negative if you take out that first half against Detroit. I think it is too much of a stretch to call for the upset here but Chicago can move the ball through the air and keep the pressure on Green Bay to find that higher level of execution. The boo-birds were out last week, something not normally seen in Green Bay, and they will be again if the Packers dont win and look good doing it. Nine points is a lot for this version of the Packers to eat and there really isnt anything to lose for the Bears. Former Packers offensive lineman Josh Sitton will return to Lambeau for the first time as visitor and his gameplan knowledge could give the Bears a slight edge in preparation. Look for a cleaner effort from the Pack but they wont cure all the ills and will still see some inefficient drives. It think the Packers top out at 27 points with the Bears at 20 so take Chicago here.
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Chicago