NFL Pick: Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
Chicago Bears (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Green Bay Packers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Football Week 1
Date: Sunday, Sep. 9 at 8:20pm ET
Where: Lambeau Field
By: Ted Walker, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Spread: CHI +7 /GB -7
Nothing says NFL Football like rivalries and there are few rivalries, if any, like Bears - Packers. Chicago Head Coach Matt Nagy and the newly acquired Khalil Mack are going to get their first taste of this heated hate-hate relationship but fans from both sides are all too familiar with each other as this series is nearly 200 games old. Sunday marks the 197th meeting between the two iconic teams with Green Bay leading the overall standings, 96-94-6, after two wins last season. There is plenty to like about the direction that Chicago is heading in as a franchise but that enthusiasm might be put on hold this Sunday Night. Sportsbooks have Green Bay as the second biggest favorites of Week 1.
Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood
There is no doubt who the most important player on the field is come Sunday Night. Aaron Rodgers returns healthy after a broken collarbone in 2017 essentially washed out the Green Bay season. Rodgers did play against the Bears in Week 4 last year, putting up four touchdown passes in what was a typical day at the office for him. A-Rod is 15-4 against Chicago with 42 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. He did lose his favorite target in Jordy Nelson but he still has Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, plus a shiny new tight end in Jimmy Graham. The Bears defense is good and just added a three time Pro-Bowler but Aaron Rodgers can have the Green Bay offense scoring 28 points on a bad night.
Pettine to the Rescue?
While the offense in Green Bay is a well-known commodity, the defense has question marks. Several years of underperforming finally cost Dom Capers his job and the D-Coordinator seat is now filled by Mike Pettine. There is a lot of clamor in Green Bay that any kind of improvement on that side of the ball will have the Pack deep in the playoffs but we need to see if the problem was the scheme or the players. Pettine has been pretty tight-lipped about what changes have been put in place and the preseason showing was vanilla as expected. Clay Matthews is the name on this D but he has been showing diminishing returns and that linebacker level is thin after losing Jake Ryan. Nick Perry did have three sacks against the Bears in the last meeting and someone may need that special individual effort again as there are sure to be some missed assignments as this defense transitions. Muhammad Wilkerson and Tramon Williams are solid, veteran additions that will help solidify what is a young unit. A Green Bay defense that finishes in the top-12 range will make the Packers a legit NFC title contender. They are currently getting 6 to 1 odds to win the NFC.
The second pick in the 2017 draft will have the clamps taken off this season according to Bears brass but what that means for Chicago this year is anyone’s guess. A very conservative game plan for Mitch Trubisky last season kept him from trainwrecking but it also led to the Bears ranking 30th in total yards and 29th in points at 16.5 per game. Even significant improvements in those categories will have Chicago hovering around league average at best and what if Trubisky is mistake-prone with a more aggressive approach? Matt Nagy learned at the side of Andy Reid and knows how to manage a young QB in theory but the practice may be too tough a test. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen make for one of the better overall backfields in the league and those two playmakers will be relied on again. Howard was limited to just over 100 rushing yards total in two games against Green Bay last season and Cohen was not able to get loose for any big plays. That duo will need to have a large impact if Chicago stays close this Sunday. Allen Robinson comes over from Jacksonville to provide the Bears with a legitimate #1 receiving threat. Robinson went down to an ACL tear in Week 1 last season but is just two years removed from a 1,400 yard, 14 touchdown sophomore season. TE Trey Burton was also added from the Eagles to bolster the weapons at Trubisky’s disposal.
The Bears just completed the biggest transaction of the preseason as they successfully traded for OLB Khalil Mack. They promptly made him the highest paid defensive player in the league and a Chicago defense that ranked 10th last season is now all the more potent. Mack recorded 40.5 sacks in just four seasons with the Raiders and while his total snap count on Sunday is unknown, we can be sure he will be let loose after Rodgers on passing downs. If Chicago has any hope this weekend, it seems that Mack and this Bears D as a whole will need to at least force Green Bay into third and long situations where they can make Rodgers attempt long passes. It still may not work but honestly, a Green Bay offense that is running smoothly is not going to be stopped by anyone.
Green Bay has won eight of the last ten straight up in this series and seven of the last ten against the spread. The Packers have gone 8-3 ATS in the last 11 September games while Chicago is just 2-9 ATS in their last 11 September contests. The Bears have just five ATS wins in their last sixteen as visitors to continue the bad trend news. The worst item is the 26-10 ATS mark Green Bay has against Chicago going back to the latter Favre days. It has been more than a minute since the Bears have been competitive in this series.
I think there is just too much here for the Bears to successfully swallow. Rodgers is back and ready to roll, the Lambeau fans will be hopping and the momentum is squarely with Green Bay. The Packers will be without the services of RB Aaron Jones and perhaps T Bryan Bulaga but there is enough depth at those positions for the Pack to survive those losses. Chicago would need a pick-six or fumble scoop and score somewhere along the line to stay relevant and that only helps if Trubisky can put up his share of points. I doubt he can against what may be a decent Packers defense and Green Bay cruises to a 30-16 win.
Ted’s pick: Green Bay -7
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