The Green Bay Packers are the preferred choice of early bettors in Sunday night’s matchup against the Chicago Bears. But the NFL odds are playing tricks on us again, dancing around the magic number seven.
Jason’s record after Week 8: 24-33 ATS, 9-12-1 Totals
Profit: minus-29.93 units
So the Chicago Bears opened as 7.5-point road dogs on NFL odds for Sunday night’s NFC North rivalry game (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC) with the Green Bay Packers. Our consensus reports show Green Bay pulling in 60 percent support from early bettors – and yet the football odds have moved to Chicago +7 as we go to press at Sportsbooks like The Greek. What the deuce?
No need to panic. This kind of thing happens all the time when you’re betting on football. The opening lines you see on our NFL odds board represent the very first lines that pop up – most books prefer to wait a little while and see how the market develops before publishing. Also, the 40 percent of people who were betting Chicago may have placed larger bets. And since we’re talking about the magic number seven here, check the vigorish on those NFL lines. You’re bound to see some discrepancies and maybe even find a bargain or two.
In theory, getting the Bears at +7.5 would have been pretty sweet. You might recall our featured NFL betting trend for Week 6, where divisional underdogs of at least seven points were 144-130 ATS (52.6 percent) since 2002. That was the situation last year in Week 9 when Chicago was a 10-point road dog at Lambeau Field; the Bears won 27-20. Piece of cake, right?
Not so fast. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers hurt his shoulder on the first offensive series and was replaced by Seneca Wallace. The Bears, meanwhile, started Josh McCown in place of the injured Jay Cutler, and McCown ended up being the better quarterback of the two that year, at least when it came to playing for head coach Marc Trestman, Quarterback Whisperer.
It’s hard to say whether Trestman’s charms are working on Cutler or not. On one hand, Cutler is putting up the best numbers of his nine-year NFL career; through eight games, he has 17 TD passes to just eight interceptions, and a passer rating of 95.8. On the other hand, Cutler has committed enough untimely gaffes to spoil those numbers and leave the Bears last in the NFC North at 3-5 SU and ATS. And you know how much the mainstream press loves to rag on Cutler. If Chicago were Bikini Bottom, Cutler would be Squidward.
I’m a Football Star, I’m Popular
The press doesn’t have any problems with the Packers (5-3 SU, 4-3-1 ATS) and their starting quarterback. Rodgers is healthy and back to playing at an MVP level: 19 TD throws, three INTs and an NFL-best 113.6 passer rating. However, Green Bay was on a 4-0 SU and ATS winning streak before going to the Superdome in Week 8 and losing 44-23 to the New Orleans Saints, where Rodgers threw two of his three picks on the season. Whoops.
There’s no denying that Rodgers is playing better than Cutler. But football is a team sport, and a lucky bounce here or there is all that really separates these two teams in the standings. To get a better handle on the relative merits of these two rivals, let’s go to the DVOA charts at Football Outsiders, where Green Bay is No. 5 overall (No. 5 offense, No. 18 defense, No. 13 special teams), well ahead of Chicago at No. 24 (No. 14 offense, No. 23 defense, No. 30 special teams).
While we’re at it, Pro Football Reference has the Packers at No. 10 overall with a plus-3.7 SRS, and the Bears No. 23 at minus-3.8 SRS. That’s a difference of 7.5 points right there. Give Green Bay another 2.5 points for home-field advantage, and maybe the Packers are worth risking a mouthful of chalk after all. We’ll revisit this later in the week with our NFL picks on the spread and total.