Holy Moly, has it really been 7 months since the Superbowl!? At times I thought it would never get here, at times it seems like it was just yesterday we were watching the bloody Pats lift yet another Lombardi in Atlanta after a defensive masterclass stymied Goff and the Rams for the majority of the game.
With it being the 100th year of the NFL this season they’ve decided to mix it up a bit and instead of the reigning champs opening the season they have gone with the oldest rivarly in the game with the Bears hosting the Packers. It will be the 199th meeting of the two since they first clashed back in 1921 when Tom Brady was in his rookie season at the Patriots. The Packers lead the overall series 97–95–6, which definitely has a lot of BEARing on how things will go this year… Yeah, not much really, but nice to know.
A quick note before I get going, Glenn Scurfield (@GscurfTrader on twitter) is putting together a spreadsheet for player prop comparisons this year which I’ll be using for every game as it’s going to save me a massive amount of time going around and comparing site by site – follow him on twitter and it’s his pinned tweet, or it’s available on Google Docs – Prop Comparison Website
Packers (+3) @ Bears: Total (46.5)
This line has shifted closer through the off-season, opening around 4, down to 3.5 a month and a half ago, and seemingly edging closer to 3 points (at 2.00) as we get closer to the season, although 3.5 is still there on Skybet at 1.80 if you fancy that instead. In theory, given the Bears have a strong home-field advantage this means that the bookies think that the Packers are a stronger side on a neutral field.
They played each other in the opener last year, Khalil Mack destroyed the Packers gameplan for a 3/4 of the game before a remarkable comeback from Rodgers and his WRs in the final quarter snatched the win for them. That was at Lambeau though and the Bears won 7 of their 8 home matches last season. Soldier Field is not an easy place to go to and it will be rocking for this one.
The Packers, and specifically Aaron Rodgers have no excuses left for poor performances after the team relieved the much maligned Mike (not Mick) McCarthy during the summer. It has been clear to most looking people looking at the organisation that there was a rift between Rodgers and McCarthy, leading to Rodgers seemingly changing every play at the LoS and going with what he wanted to do. So it will be interesting to see how the Pack go this year with a new head coach, and one, no less who has rubbed shoulders with the hot young things in the game, Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay. Annoyingly they’ve shown nothing at all in pre-season, Rodgers, Adams and the likes didn’t play at all so we’ve got to try and interpret Beat writers and interview talk to figure what will be happening this year.
Despite a poor year Rodgers finished with 27 TDs, 2 INTs for the season and while that looks good one of the reasons for the low INT. rate is that he led the league in throwaways, meaning that no-one at all could catch the ball. Everyone seems to be inferring the rift between McCarthy and himself was a reason for that, and it makes sense. Rodgers used to be one of the best in the league at evading danger and finding his man downfield so the there’s some logic to that argument. Without McCarthy calling in the plays we’ve got to expect that he’ll be back to his former self running around behind his offensive line waiting for someone to get open downfield.
His main man since Jordy Nelson left has been Davante Adams who caught nearly half of Rodgers thrown TDs last year finishing with 13 for the season, 12 of them coming from within the redzone where he was the most targeted player in the league last year with 32 targets, 16 receptions and 12 TDs from them. It was the first season Adams eclipsed 1,000 yards and given the talking up that Rodgers has done in the off-season I think it’s reasonable to expect similar this year. From everything we’ve heard in camp Geronimo Allison will be in the slot with Marques Valdez-Scantling taking the outside position on opposite Adams. Jimmy Graham is still there at Tight end although for me the jury is out on whether he can actually still do anything on the field. Outside of those 3 WRs you’re looking at the likes of training camp hero Jake Kumerow and J’Mon Moore…so nothing exactly tempting there. Oh yeah, Jimmy Graham is there at tight end as well. I’m not sure he can still play, but in his prime he was one of the best in the league. It will be interesting to see how he’s worked in on this offense.
At running back it seems sensible that Aaron Jones will get the majority of the carries having finished the year with the highest average carry in the league at 5.5 yards per go and although Matt LeFleur wasn’t exactly reliable calling plays in Tennessee you’ve got to imagine he’ll use the Welshman a lot in this opener. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Jamaal Williams get mixed in on occasion although there’s been precious little spoken about him over the summer, they also drafted Dexter WIlliams, making it a very Welsh backfield indeed, but I’d be surprised to see him make the field tonight.
As if trying to figure out how the offense is going to play wasn’t interesting enough, they’ve improved greatly on defense as well, and go into this season with the second quickest defense on paper. They used their 2 first round picks this year to take pass rusher Rashaan Gary who’s been lighting it up during the off-season and safety Darnell Savage to play in the secondary with the second year Jaire Alexander, who by all reports is pretty damn good. I’ve heard it said that they drafted all this speed to try and keep QBs in the pocket which will be very useful against tonight’s opponents.
Matt Nagy returns for his second year in charge of the Bears after a hugely successful debut for them last year. He created a lot for Mitchell Trubisky and they took full advantage of having one of the easier schedules, and as it turned out, the 3rd best injury luck last year as well. They were 1 double-doink away from making it to the NFC Championship game and that has definitely been on their minds all off-season, bringing in kicker after kicker to kick from 43 yards just to see if they can do it. The man Eddy Pineiro won the job in the end.
It seems somewhat inevitable that there will be a missed FG/PAT tonight. (I’ve been trying to get Sky to price it up…)
Mitchell Trubisky. Erm, is he actually any good? Personally I don’t really rate him, I think he’s got a lot of work to do and reports from camp this year don’t exactly fill me with confidence that he can do it. Saying that, he was the only QB in the league last year to have a 6 TD game when he blew up against a dreadful Tampa side. In fact, looking at bare stats he’s not bad at all, 66% completions, 95 rating on the season. BUT from what I remember, he just doesn’t pass the eye test for me. I’m actually really conflicted on this one because I know I’m using my opinion of him too much here and maybe not judging him on what he’s done. I don’t know; I do know he’s good with his legs though and that adds a nice dynamic to his game.
His pass catchers are varied and all have specific roles in Nagy’s offense. The main man is Allen Robinson who was coming off an ACL injury last year, he could be very good this season now that he’s another year away from that injury and with another full off-season in training camp. He finished the season well with over 143 yards and TD in the wildcard game. Anthony Miller had a strange season for them in the slot, he was hampered by injuries and had another over the summer but avoids the injury report for this one; He finished last season with John Ross type numbers, 7 TDs from 33 receptions so he’s definitely used in the red zone. Taylor Gabriel is a little tougher to predict as he’s a very quick scat back and can be used in the run and passing game much like Cordarelle Patterson who they used to similar effect in pre-season. They drafted Calvin Ridleys brother, Riley, who’s another slot reciever but hasn’t seen much use so far.
Tight end is interesting for tonight as Trey Burton had surgery early in the off-season and tweaked his groin again recently. He seems to be trending towards being declared out for this one, but we won’t know until closer to game-time. If he is out, then I’d expect it to be Adam Shaheen, 6’6″ beast of a man who scored on 20% of his receptions last season (admittedly 1 TD from 5 receptions, but it’s true.) He was 12/1 earlier in the week to score and would have been a certain bet had he still been that price. He has had back issues over the summer, but listed as active for tonight so I assume it will be him… If not then… yes, the 3rd string TE… Ben Braunecker (Thank god for ESPN for their roster pages) is there.
Their defense was brilliant last year and on the whole it was them who won the division for them by leading the league in takeaways, mainly through interceptions with 27 of them, Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson the main guys in that department. So it will be interesting to see how they do this year after losing their Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio to the Broncos. I mean, we know that they would have regressed to some extent anyway, defense don’t stay THAT good season on season and interceptions are a largely random stat. They’ve kept most of the same players and any team with Khalil Mack in it is going to get pressure on teams, so QBs will be hurried.
What’s going to happen then?
I have no idea. Everything in me thinks it could be a huge anti-climax and be a low scoring game. But then I look at the offensive players on show, and the minds coaching them and they could feasibly have some great game plans in place which will confuse and impress, but that could be more in hope of something good happening.
I have tipped Adams and Allison to score on my preview for Sportsbookreview.com and I stand by them at the prices I got on them, over in the UK you’re looking at 2.00 on Adams (PP) and 5.50 on Allison (Skybet) (Evens and 9/2 respectively)
Adam Shaheen is now 5.50 on Skybet, Mike Davis could be worth a look at 6.45 on Redzone (@NFLTouchdownBet on twitter has tipped him) assuming that Montgomery won’t get ALL the rush attempts… but I think I’ll stay away from any additional TD bets and look at the yardages.
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling – o35.5 receiving yards – 1.83 (365) – 2 points
- Trey Burton – u33.5 receiving yards – 1.82 (Only on Ladbrokes/Coral) – 2 points
I’ve been agonising over a lot of the props and there’s quite a lot which I think look good, but there’s just nothing to work with, so I’ll stick at those two.
MVS is the WR2, he’d probably need 3 catches to hit his line here. It was between him and Allison o42.5 (GB used the slot well vs Bears last season) but have gone with the lower line.
Trey Burton may well not be active in which case we’re void. If he does play I don’t see him topping that line.
One final thing (sorry this went VERY long) – Skybet have their £5 on RaB get £5 offer on.
I’ve gone for Mack 1+ Sack, Rodgers 200+ yards, Montgomery 50+ yards and Jones to score a TD at 4/1 then used my free fiver on MVS first TD, Allison last TD at 500/1 because why the fuck not.
Right. On to the season! I hope it’s a profitable one for all of us!