- Aaron Rodgers returns from an injury-plagued 2017 season to lead a Packers team that has made a habit of covering the spread at home against archrival Chicago.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-8)
Sun. 9/9, 8:20 p.m.
Three things you need to know before betting on Bears-Packers:
1. It's anybody's guess what will happen when Chicago passes the ball in this game. Mitchell Trubisky showed promise as a rookie and now will look to make a leap in his second season as a pro, and he'll have plenty of new weapons at receiver to help him do so. That includes one-time Jaguars star Allen Robinson, who had a disappointing 2016 before missing all of 2017 with a torn ACL; 2015 No. 7 pick Kevin White, who might finally be healthy for the first time in his career; and speedster Anthony Miller, who the Bears selected in the second round of this past spring's draft. New head coach Matt Nagy, a proud descendant of the Andy Reid coaching tree, figures to find innovative ways to use all of them, as well as pint-sized running back Tarik Cohen.
There is equal uncertainty on the other side of the ball in the Green Bay secondary. The Packers have ranked in the NFL's bottom 10 in pass defense each of the past two seasons, but have also made significant investments in defensive backs in recent drafts. They selected CB Kevin King and S Josh Jones with their first two picks in 2017, and corners Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson with their first two picks this past April. Each of those four young DBs has shown plenty of potential, but how they'll perform in the bright lights of Week 1's Sunday Night Football content remains a question—especially for the two rookies playing their first games as pros.
2. The Packers have been bereft of talent at the running back position for some time now, a weakness that has been largely covered up by Aaron Rodgers's quarterbacking brilliance. Their ground attack will be handicapped even further in this game, however, as Aaron Jones is serving a two-game suspension to start the season. Jones was far and away Green Bay's most efficient rusher in 2017, and his absence leaves Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery—who left the Pack's third preseason game with an injury and was sidelined for their fourth—to shoulder the load. Based on the fact that Green Bay felt the need to sign the likes of LeShun Daniels and Bronson Hill to contracts in late August, it seems that the team doesn't feel especially comfortable with what it has available. An impotent Green Bay running attack would allow the Bears to drop extra men in coverage to stymie Rodgers, or hinder the Packers' ability to ice a lead late in the game.
3. Given the disparity in these two teams' success this decade—the Packers are 73-38-1 since the 2011-2012 season, while the Bears are 45-67—it's no surprise that Green Bay has taken care of business against Chicago in recent head-to-head matchups. In that same time frame, the Packers are 12-2 against the Bears, and they've also cleaned up against the spread with an 11-3 ATS record over Chicago over the last seven seasons. Even as 4.5-point favorites at home against a Rodgers-less Pack in November of last season, the Bears lost outright by a 23-16. Simply put, Green Bay has Chicago's number.
Not surprisingly, the Packers have been favored in each of their home matchups against the Bears over the last seven seasons. They were favored by an average of 8.4 points in those games, putting the -8 spread for this year's addition right in line. Green Bay successfully covered in five of those contests, but lost outright in the other two: A 27-20 defeat in 2013 in which Rodgers suffered an injury on the game's very first series and didn't return, and a sloppy 17-13 loss in 2015 that was significantly impacted by a freezing late-November rain. Essentially, the Bears require acts of God to win at Lambeau, or even cover. Chicago indeed bolstered its talent in the offseason, but don't bet on an anomaly.
Pick: Packers -8
Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)