Bears vs. Packers Odds & Picks: Back Green Bay To Cover in NFC North Showdown
Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: Aaron Rodgers
Bears vs. Packers Odds
There’s plenty at stake in this matchup featuring the NFL’s oldest rivalry. In this age-old clash between two former “Black and Blue” division members, the Chicago Bears (8-7) host the (12-3) Green Bay Packers with oddsmakers installing the road team as 4-point favorites.
Although the Packers have already clinched the NFC North title, they can clinch the NFC’s No. 1 seed for the conference’s only first-round bye with a win or a Seahawks loss (to the 49ers) on Sunday.
On the opposite side, the Bears can control their own destiny in the wild card race and clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Packers or a loss by the Cardinals (to the Rams).
Unfortunately for the Bears, the Packers have dominated this rivalry over the past decade, with them winning their last matchup 41-25 on Sunday Night Football.
Will the Packers’ dominance over their NFC North rivals continue? Or will the Bears finally bite back on their way to clinching a wild-card berth?
Green Bay Packers
After a full year of questioning whether Aaron Rodgers is still an elite quarterback, he proved all his naysayers wrong this season: He’s thrown for 4,059 yards and leads the league in touchdowns (44), ESPN’s Total QBR (83.9), quarterback rating (119.4), expected points added per play while ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.
Given his play, the Packers are first in points per game (31.6) and rank first in expected points added per play, offensive DVOA and third in overall success rate (per Sharp Football Stats).
It’s no surprise that Rodgers comes into this game as the odds-on favorite for MVP, and based on the past 16 seasons, he couldn’t ask for a better matchup. He’s dominated his divisional rival Bears, going 19-5 straight up and 17-7 against the spread (ATS) over his 16-year career with the Packers.
In his most recent matchup against the Bears in Week 12, Rodgers barely had to break a sweat, completing 21-of-29 passes for 211 yards and four touchdowns with a 132.3 quarterback rating. That was with the Bears’ defense healthy and playing at their peak. Now this unit faces injuries that should make things easier for this Packers offense.
Unfortunately for the Packers, David Bakhtiari tore his ACL in practice this week and will be out for the season. He’s arguably the best left tackle in football and is Pro Football Football Focus’ second-highest graded tackle (91.8) and has allowed just one sack in 420 snaps this season.
The Packers do have experience playing without Bakhtiari, however, as he missed three games earlier this season during which time they moved Billy Turner to left tackle and played Rick Wagner at right tackle. In the three games Bakhtiari missed against the Texans, Vikings and 49ers, Rodgers was sacked just twice and the Packers still scored an average of 30.33 points per game, despite the game against the Vikings being impacted by heavy winds that negatively impacted their scoring output.
Nonetheless, while there’s no replacing the best left tackle in football, the Packers should be well equipped to handle the loss of Bakhtiari — despite injuries on the offensive line all season, this is still a unit that ranks first in ESPN’s pass rush win rate metric.
This Packers offense is still loaded — Davante Adams comes into this game with 109 receptions for 1,328 yards and 17 touchdowns, on pace to break Sterling Sharpe’s record for most touchdowns and receptions in franchise history.
Unlike Packers offenses of the past, this unit has a top-tier run game led by Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and A.J. Dillon, and they’ve had five straight games with 120 or more rushing yards.
While Green Bay’s defense ranks just 15th in defensive efficiency, 14th against the pass and 19th against the run, this unit is trending upward. The addition of Damon “Snacks” Harrison should take the pressure off Kenny Clark to limit opposing rushing attacks.
Nonetheless, with how the Packers offense has performed this season, they’ll be headed to the Super Bowl if the defense can bend without breaking.
The Bears hope to become the third NFL team since the AFL/NFL merger to clinch a playoff berth despite having a six-loss streak in the same season.
In many ways, the team that lost six straight games in Weeks 9-13 was a completely different team, as we saw offensive coordinator Bill Lazor take over play-calling duties from head coach Matt Nagy. Since Week 13, Mitchell Trubisky has been on a tear, completing 72.3% of his passes and throwing for 250.3 yards per game with seven passing touchdowns to just two interceptions while rushing 17 times for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Having a mobile quarterback has clearly opened up this offense, and we’ve seen an increase in work for David Montgomery, who has rushed 83 times for 426 yards and six touchdowns while adding 10 receptions for 123 yards over the past four weeks.
The Bears have struggled to run the ball for much for he season, ranking 28th in rushing success rate (36.0) while averaging just 102.6 rushing yards per game. However, if they can get the run game going, it would go a long way to taking the pressure off Trubisky.
Nonetheless, we’ve seen a ton of improvement from this offense as they’ve scored 35 points over the pass two four weeks. Lazor has done a tremendous job at scheming for this unit, as their struggling offensive line ranks 17th in adjusted sack rate and 20th in adjusted line yards.
The Bears have found success going with 12 personnel (two tight end sets), going with it 40% of the time vs. 25% under Nagy. It’s no coincidence that they’ve seen increases in success rate and scoring output since Lazor has taken over.
While Lazor does deserve some credit for turning this offense around, the Bears haven’t exactly played a Murderers’ row of opposing defenses.
The Lions, Texans, Vikings and Jaguars rank 32nd, 30th, 18th and 31st, respectively in defensive DVOA and 32nd, 30th, 31st and 29th in defensive success rate.
For all the talk of the Packers’ struggles defensively, these defenses make them look like the 1985 Bears in comparison. Ironically, the current Bears defense hasn’t resembled anything close to the ’85 Bears or even what we saw at the start of the season. While the Lions, Texans, Vikings and Jaguars didn’t capitalize on it, the Bears have suffered a rash of defensive injuries in the secondary.
Cornerback Buster Skrine with sit out his fourth straight game with a concussion while Jaylon Johnson will miss his third consecutive game with a shoulder injury. The Bears have also missed cornerback Tashaun Gipson.
With the injuries to the secondary, the Bears are 23rd in passing success rate and 24th in explosive pass defense since Week 10, which certainly doesn’t bode well against Rodgers and Adams.
Akiem Hicks will play in this matchup, but he’s missed practiced with an illness this week. Still, it’s clear this Bears defense has their hands full with a Packers offense that’s scored fewer than 30 points in just four of their 15 games this season.
Rodgers has dominated the Bears throughout his career, going 19-5 straight up and 17-7 against the spread. With the Bears’ issues at secondary, I’m not sure how that changes here.
The Bears offense has improved lately, but they’ve done it against the Lions, Texans, Vikings and Jaguars — bottom-feeders as far as NFL defenses are concerned.
Montgomery has been a major factor in the success of the Bears offense, averaging 5.1 yards per carry over the last month, which should play into the Packers’ weaknesses. Still, the Packers did hold Derrick Henry to just 23 rushes for 98 yards last week and an explosive Titans offense to just 14 points.
Although that game took place in the snow, the Packers put up 40 points of their own.
It’s clear that these are two teams in two different weight classes, although the Bears have to win to get into the playoffs, but the Packers are also playing for home-field advantage throughout the postseason and a win could lock up Rodgers’ third MVP Award.
While the loss of Bakhtiari is a concern — particularly against a Bears defensive line with Hicks and Khalil Mack — Green Bay’s experience playing without him this season makes me feel comfortable in the team’s ability to overcome his absence.
My numbers make this game closer to Packers -6, so at -4, this is a positive expected value proposition. I’ll lay the points with the Packers looking forward to seeing the path to the Super Bowl in the NFC go through Lambeau Field.
Pick: Packers -4