What better way to get the 2015-16 NFL season started than with a showdown against your biggest rival?! The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears will be playing for the 190th time when the two teams meet in Soldier Field in Week 1.
Date: Sunday, September 13th 2015
Start Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
Broadcast Info: FOX
The Bears lead the most-played rivalry in the NFL by a tally of 93-90-6, but the Packers are 10-2 against their NFC North rivals since 2009. The last time these two teams opened the season, The Packers prevailed 21-15 in 2009 in Jay Cutler’s first game as a Chicago Bear. This game opened at Green Bay -5 but was unanimously bet to -6.5 across all books. With public money expected to continue for the Packers, books will be looking for sharps to side with the Bears closer to game time.
Despite being one of the best teams in the NFL in recent years, the Packers have lost their last three Week 1 contests: Losing at home to San Francisco 30-22 in 2012, at San Francisco 34-28 in 2013, and at Seattle 36-16 last season. Chicago, on the other hand, is a great Week 1 team historically, winning its previous four openers before falling in overtime to Buffalo last season.
Who to Watch: When writing these previews, it’s way too easy to put the quarterback in this section. Obviously, more eyes are on the quarterback than any other position on the field. However, this game may have the biggest Week 1 quarterback storylines than any other. The Bears thought they were able to successfully replace Brandon Marshall with first round draft pick Kevin White. But due to an off-season leg injury, White will miss at least the first half the season, leaving Cutler with Alshon Jeffrey and not much else at wide receiver. Will Cutler be able to develop chemistry with another option? Or will the Bears’ passing game consist of deep balls to Jeffrey and check-downs to Matt Forte?
There should be no questions about Aaron Rodgers heading into the 2015-16 season, but many on-lookers will be curious to see who Rodgers targets in Jordy Nelson’s absence. Nelson caught 98 balls for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2014-15. The Packers are well-equipped to handle his hiatus, but it will be interesting to see where Rodgers spreads his targets in the season opener.
What’s the Key: No team in the NFL can boast a history of consistently strong defenses like the Bears can. But there are very few names on the Bears depth chart that will wake the echos of Singletary, Dent, Butkus and Urlacher. Do the Bears have enough playmakers on defense to slow down Rodgers and the potent Packers offense? New head coach John Fox is hoping that veterans Jared Allen and Antrel Rolle have enough in the tank to lead the Bears defense back to prominence.
Where We’re Leaning: The Packers potent offense got off to a painfully slow start last season, averaging 18 points per game to start the year, and Rodgers failing to top the 200-yard passing mark in two of the team’s first three games. When you factor in the loss of Nelson, there are enough reasons to expect the Bears to keep it close in Coach Fox’s Bears debut. Grabbing 6.5 is tempting, but we’ll definitely be looking at the Bears if the line creeps up to 7 in this Week 1 NFL free pick, courtesy of WagerTalk.