The 2019 NFL season kicks off with a NFC North rivalry on Thursday night when the Green Bay Packers visit the Windy City and the Chicago Bears.
The best online betting sites opened the Bears as 3.5-point favorites but money on the Packers has cut that half-point hook from the spread, and has Chicago sitting as field-goal chalk. The Bears and Packers split their two meetings in 2018, however, Chicago covered in both of those contests. Going back over their recent rivalry games, Green Bay has been the smarter wager covering in six of their past 10 matchups.
If you’re betting the NFL season opener, here are some angles to factor into your handicapping:
New leaf with LaFleur
Green Bay debuts new head coach Matt LaFleur and his offensive scheme Thursday night. LaFleur, who was the offensive coordinator in Tennessee last year, is implementing a West Coast offense with in Wisconsin this season, meaning a quicker tempo and shorter passes with a good balance on the ground.
However, due to Green Bay’s botched Week 3 preseason game in Winnipeg, Canada (played on an 80-yard field due to turf conditions and the team decided not to play many starters), the Packers may be behind schedule when it comes to adapting this new offense to game situations. And it just so happens they’re facing a Chicago defense that ranked No. 3 in yards allowed in 2018 (299.7 yards per game).
Chicago enters Year 2 under head coach Matt Nagy, who rolled out some very interesting play calls last year. Bettors should expect even more curveballs from this Bears offense Thursday night, especially when it comes to the rushing tandem of Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is heading into his third season and made leaps and bound in 2018, so the expectations are high for him this year. But, he didn’t get much action in the preseason and reports from training camp weren’t positive. He does get WR Allen Robinson back after he missed just about all of last season and also has an option in speedster Taylor Gabriel.
The Bears scored 23 and 24 points in their two games versus the Packers defense in 2018 – a unit that should improve on last season’s efforts and retained defensive coordinator Mike Pettine even with the change at head coach.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times in the Week 15 meeting with Chicago last year, getting little protection from an offensive line that gave up 53 sacks on the season – tied for second most in the NFL.
Cue Chicago linebacker Khalil Mack, who was the star of the Bears’ Week 1 meeting with the Packers (a 24-23 loss on a Rodgers late TD drive) and registered 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception in two games versus Green Bay. Mack finished his first season in Chicago with 12.5 sacks.
Green Bay’s offensive line is in a transition year, with LaFleur’s running schemes putting added wrinkles to their game plans. The faster pace and shorter, quicker passes should help keep Rodgers upright and the Bears guessing. Thursday’s Over/Under is set at 46 points. These divisional foes have played Over in seven of their previous 10 meetings.