How much more fun would the first Sunday Night Football game of 2021 be if exciting rookie first-round pick Justin Fields were the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears?
Instead, we have to settle for Andy Dalton, which is a lot less interesting but has the Los Angeles Rams sitting as a heavy favorite (-7.5).
It’s easy to understand why Bears head coach Matt Nagy decided to hold Fields back here. Not only has the team inexplicably insisted all offseason that Dalton is their guy for now, but a prime-time road matchup with Aaron Donald and Co. isn’t an ideal way to launch one’s career.
Still, oddsmakers attempt to account for all of this. Let’s break the tilt down from a betting perspective.
WHY THE BEARS WILL COVER THE SPREAD
An argument could be made that oddsmakers and the public have pushed this line a little too high. Both the Rams and Bears were playoff teams last season, with only two games separating them in the NFC standings. And it’s not as though Chicago was in great shape under center then, either.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, continues to bleed in the offseason. They’re now quite a top-heavy team, relying mainly on just a handful of stars to carry them. That’s something an experienced Bears team could wise up to.
Plus, the backdoor cover is always a possibility with a spread in this range.
WHY THE RAMS WILL COVER THE SPREAD
Dalton might be more experienced (and sacrificial) than Fields, but that might not make a difference as the Bears adjust to a new-look offensive line while dealing with a three-time/reigning defensive player of the year.
New quarterback Matthew Stafford could also bring a jolt to the Rams. He now has more support than he ever did with the Detroit Lions, and Sean McVay should have plenty up his sleeve for an admittedly solid Chicago defense.
To boot, this might feel like the true opener at SoFi Stadium, which will be filled to capacity for the first time since opening in 2020.
BEARS RAMS BETTING PICK
McVay’s Rams easily beat the Nagy-coached Bears at this very site last October, and that was part of a troubling trend for Chicago. The Bears were horrible in big spots against high-quality teams. In those situations from Week 7 on, they went 0-6 with a minus-70 scoring margin.
I’m expecting that trend to continue Sunday night as the Rams run away with it.
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