Current line:  Packers -5 (Bet365, 5Dimes), Packers -5.5 (SportsInteraction, Pinnacle), total is set at 51.5 at all books.
Current betting percentage:  50/50 action on the side, 82% action on the OVER

Individual Team Trends:
Bears are 4-1 ATS in their last five games following a win of more than 14 points.
Packers are 12-4 ATS in their last 16 home games.
Packers are 5-0 ATS in their last five games following a loss.

Head-to-Head Trends:
Under is 8-1 in the last nine meetings.
Bears are 2-7 ATS in the last nine meetings.

Thursday Night Football kicks off tonight with a very intriguing NFC North matchup between the Packers and the Bears.  Chicago’s new look offense looked great against the Colts, as they battered Indianapolis’ defense en route to a 41-21 victory. Green Bay, on the other hand, looked abysmal in their Week 1 loss to the 49ers.

The key here is not to overreact to what you saw in Week 1. It’s entirely possible that the Packers may have a down year and that the Bears may be the team to beat in the NFC North, but it’s impossible to tell after only one week of action. Bettors obviously need to adjust to what they saw during the opening weekend, but don’t go over the top. After all, the Packers lost to a legitimate Super Bowl contender, while the Bears beat up on a team that’s in a rebuilding mode.

The Packers will enter this game with some confidence knowing that they’ve beaten the Bears in seven of their last nine matchups, including two straight season sweeps. However, the second game between the Bears and Packers from last season should be thrown out the window since Caleb Hanne started at quarterback and replaced an injured Jay Cutler.

Offensively, the Bears are much more dynamic this season. Chicago finally obtained a top flight receiver in the offseason when they acquired Brandon Marshall from the Dolphins. Marshall may be a raging lunatic, but he’s undoubtedly one of the most talented wide receivers in the NFL, and based on last week’s performance, it looks as though he’s rekindled his chemistry with Cutler. Chicago is also more dynamic at running back, where Michael Bush can shoulder some of the load and keep proven workhorse Matt Forte fresh.

The Packers finished last in the NFL in total defense last season, and despite using their first six draft picks this year on the defensive side of the ball they still looked just as atrocious in their first game against the 49ers. Green Bay drafted outside linebacker Nick Perry out of USC to alleviate some of the pass rushing load from Clay Matthews’ shoulders, but Perry was a non-factor in Week 1. The majority of their other defensive draft picks didn’t even see the field.

The ultimate blow to the Packers’ defense came when inside linebacker Desmond Bishop was put on injured reserve in the preseason. Bishop was a tackling machine in the middle of the field, and the downgrade from him to D.J. Smith is quite substantial. Both Smith and fellow inside linebacker A.J. Hawk looked lost in pass coverage against San Francisco.

However, despite their flaws, Green Bay’s defense poses a matchup threat to the Bears’ offense. The Packers have two huge bodies on their defensive line in B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett who can easily cause some havoc against Chicago’s offensive line.  The Bears’ offensive line is not as weak as many will make it out to be, but there is some concern at the tackle positions with J’Marcus Webb and the unproven Gabe Carimi. If the Packers can generate some pressure on Cutler, they’ll significantly increase their chances of winning this football game.

It almost sounds weird for me to type this, but there are many concerns for the Packers on the offensive side of the ball. For starters, it’s unlikely that Greg Jennings is going to play due to the groin injury he suffered Sunday. Rodgers will still have some good options in Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and James Jones, but there’s no doubt Jennings will be missed. Rodgers really struggled in one of the games that Jennings missed last season where Green Bay was defeated at home and held to 13 points by Kansas City.

It would help the Packers’ offense if they could lean on a running game, but that’s pretty much been non-existent in Green Bay for the last couple of years. They will undoubtedly try to get Cedric Benson involved, especially against his former team, but it’s unlikely that they’ll find much success on the ground.

Similar to the Bears’ attack, Green Bay’s offense will only find success if their offensive line can hold up and give Rodgers enough time to throw the ball downfield. The Bears have a glaring weakness at safety with Major Wright and Christopher Conte both being subpar players, while Charles Tillman, their best cornerback, has been limited in practice all week with a shin injury. If Rodgers gets time in the pocket, he’ll shred the Bears secondary.

The biggest matchup to watch in this game will be Packers’ left tackle Marshall Newhouse against Bears’ stud defensive end Julius Peppers. Newhouse is a liability on the offensive line and will need some blocking help from fullback John Kuhn or a tight end on the line of scrimmage. If the Packers can design a gameplan to keep Peppers out of the backfield, they’ll have a really good shot at winning this game.

Ultimately, this one is really tough to call. If this was last season, I would have jumped on any opportunity to bet the Packers at home when they were less than a touchdown favorite. However, including last year’s postseason, the Packers are now only 2-3 in their last five games, after going 13-0 before that. It’s possible that opposing teams have simply figured them out.

I’m not one of those guys who thinks the Packers are going to win because I simply can’t see them going 0-2 to start the year. I can easily see them losing this game, but ultimately, I’m going to side with the more trustworthy quarterback. Rodgers has 50 career turnovers in 70 career games, while Cutler has produced 105 turnovers in 79 career games. There’s quite a discrepancy there, and in what is surely to be a close game, turnovers will very likely make the difference.

Prediction: Packers 24, Bears 20

Recommendation: I definitely don’t like either side in the game, but I like the UNDER 51.5. Over the last ten matchups between these two teams, the highest posted total was 47 in September of 2009, so there’s huge value in taking the UNDER on a high posted total of 51.5. The UNDER is also 8-1 over the last nine Packers-Bears meetings, and that was when the totals were in the mid-40s. It should also be noted that both team’s red zone defenses were strong last season. Green Bay’s red zone TD scoring percentage was 48.57 at home last season, while the Bears were a solid 46.15% on the road.

Comments (1)

  1. Now that’s the old Pizzola we all know. Good call on the under.

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