NFL expert Kyle Brown (@Kyleianbrown) takes us through the opening encounter of the new season as Green Bay head to Chicago.
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears | Friday 6th September 2019, 01:20 | Sky Sports
The 2019 NFL season opens this Thursday night when the Chicago Bears will host the Green Bay Packers, one of the most historic and oldest rivalries in the sport.
Chicago had finished bottom of the NFC North for four straight years before head coach Matt Nagy turned the team on its head. In his first season, they won the division with a 12-4 record and boasted the NFL’s third ranked defence.
Green Bay, on the other hand, regressed for the second straight year, finishing 6-9-1. Injuries to star QB Aaron Rodgers played a part, but the Packers front office had seen enough of coach Mike McCarthy, replacing him with Matt LeFleur, former OC of the Tennessee Titans and the Los Angeles Rams.
What the bookies think
The handicap line is set at 3.5, with the points total fluctuating between 45.5 and 46.5, depending who you bet with.
Bears’ offense striding forward
Chicago had a 12-4 record last year, mainly down to their stellar defence. They only allowed 299.7 yards per-game (third best) and were ranked seventh against the pass and first against the run. More importantly, they allowed the fewest points pe- game of all NFL teams in 2018. This sets any offense up for success.
Trubisky loved life under new HC Matt Nagy. A 7-7 TD/INT ratio in his rookie year (12 games) improved to 28-14 (16 games). Changes have made changes at running back, with David Montgomery being taken in the third round and Mike Davis joining from Seattle.
Having both, alongside Tarik Cohen as a patch-catching back, will allow Chicago to run a well-balanced offense, which should pose a lot of problems to a middle of the road Packers defence (16th in 2018). Moreover, signing LG Cody Whitehair to a $52.5M extension this off season shows that the Bears have confidence in their young QB, and want to make sure he has everything he needs to continue progressing.
New head coach won’t mean instant success
As I said in my Win Totals column (here):, I expect there to be teething problems in Green Bay this year.
This is the first head coaching change since Aaron Rodgers took over as the starting QB in 2008. Matt LeFleur was uninspiring as a play-calling OC in Tennessee (ranked 25th ) but was brought to Green Bay, in part, due to his success under Sean McVay in revitalising the LA Rams. It’s worth noting that the Rams continued to be successful despite LeFleur leaving them.
Furthermore, the Packers have a dangerous back field threat in Aaron Jones and they are – quite rightly – looking to use him more this year. An efficient running game is crucial for the Northern based teams given the Winter weather.
That said, for every extra rush Jones makes this year will lead, Rodgers will make one less pass attempt– and to me, he is unquestionable the leagues best QB (I’ll wait and see if Patrick Mahomes can repeat last year before considering that argument).
Finding the value
For me, this will be a win for Chicago in front of their home fans. As first games go, Matt LeFleur couldn’t have got much of a harder one.
Given that the Bears had the best run defence in all of football, it would be smart to steer towards the Green Bay passing markets. Rodgers has a legitimate stud wideout to throw at, Devante Adams, who brought in 13 TD’s in 15 games last year, averaging 92.4 yards per-game. You can get him to have over 83.5 yards at 1/1 on Paddy Power. Considering Sky Bet are only offering 5/6 for 88.5 yards, I’d jump to at the first two bookmakers as soon as you can.
A second price I love is for the match to have Over 51 Points, best priced at 6/4 on bet365.
While the two matches last year only produced 41 and 47 points respectively, a lot has changed. For Chicago, Trubisky now has a full year under his belt with Matt Nagy and has multiple weapons to throw at or hand the ball off to.
I don’t fancy the Packers defence putting up that strong of a fight, either. Equally importantly, you can never discount the Bears defence to get some points of their own to add to the scores total (A Bears defensive/special teams TD is available at 5/2 on William Hill).
While I don’t rate Green Bay’s chances overall this year under Matt LeFleur, he will have a point to prove in his divisional opener, and when you have Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball you’ve always got to have some confidence.
Green Bay aren’t favourites, so while there is less of an expectation to win, he’ll want to put on a show and lets the fans know that he is the man to lead Rodgers to another Lombardi. I expect the Bears to stuff the run, but I can see Adams out wide dominating the aerial duels with Chicago corners.
It should be a high intensity, heart-in-mouth-esq opener, one that Chicago will win, but only if their offense starts to match the heights of their formidable defence.
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears – Devante Adams Over 83.5 Yards (1/1 Paddy Power)
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears – Over 51 Point (6/4 Bet365)