Packers open season as clear betting favorites on Sunday Night Football

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Aaron Rodgers’ ballyhooed return after an injury-shortened season might well be a lesson in being skeptical when a divisional matchup has many extreme trends.

The Green Bay Packers are 7-point betting favorites against the Chicago Bears with a 46.5-point total for Sunday Night Football at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The OddsShark NFL Database has no end of ways to show that it’s been a near-decade of dominance by Green Bay in one of the NFL’s oldest rivalries, as the Packers are 12-3 against the spread in their last 15 games against the Bears, as well as 7-0 straight-up and 6-1 ATS in their last seven home games at Lambeau Field.

The Bears are also 0-9 SU in their last nine divisional games, with an average margin of defeat of 10.11 points.

The proof will be in their play, but the Bears may be on an upswing after going 5-11 SU and 9-6-1 ATS last season. First-year head coach Matt Nagy has put second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky and primary targets such as wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton in a new offensive scheme, and they will be facing a Packers defense that was third-last in the NFL last season in yards allowed per pass.

In the rushing phase, Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will try to keep the Chicago offense on the field and Rodgers idling on the sideline. Winning outright will be a tall order, but the Bears have been respectable as a big road underdog, going 4-5 ATS in their last nine road games as an underdog of at least 6.5 points, with the total going UNDER in seven of those contests.

The Packers, sixth on the Super Bowl 53 odds at +1100,  finished 7-9 SU and ATS last season after Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone during their sixth game of the season. Rodgers’ credentials as a future Hall of Fame quarterback barely need burnishing, but the big question with the Packers involves whether the supporting cast, such as wide receivers Geronimo Allison, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb and veteran tight end Jimmy Graham, are good enough to give Green Bay a chance at competing in the Super Bowl.

The Bears’ two big additions on defense, linebackers Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith, will be limited on Sunday since neither has had time to get up to speed on Chicago’s schemes. But their collective presence should help the Bears with occasionally slowing down a Packers offense that had pass protection issues in 2017, allowing the fifth-most sacks (51) in the NFL.

The total has gone OVER in seven of the Bears’ last nine games against the Packers, with an average combined score of 50. The total has also gone OVER in six of the Packers’ last seven games in Week 1.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Peter King ranks every single NFL team heading into the summer

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Mid-May. Time to take stock of the offseason. There’s not much left for teams to do before training camp. Vets with something left (Ndamukong Suh, Muhammad Wilkerson, Jay Ajayi, maybe Chris Long) could land somewhere, but those guys aren’t going to shift the balance of power in pro football’s 100th season.

So here are my rankings of the teams with most of the chairs being taken, and the music about to stop. Instead of justifying my pick in many of the fat-graf explanations, I’ll take some space on a key point that could determine success or failure with the team.

I fully expect to be wildly incorrect, so react accordingly.

The 2018 playoff teams are marked with asterisks … The teams that finished under .500 in 2018 are marked with plus-signs.

1. *KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (2018: 13-5)

Seems a little crazy with the firing of the 2017 NFL rushing champ (Kareem Hunt) six months ago and the iffy status of the NFL’s most dangerous weapon because of a child-abuse investigation (Tyreek Hill). But this is an In-Mahomes-We-Trust pick, mostly. I wonder if you could ever say that a rookie picked as low as 56—that was the draft slot of the Chiefs’ top pick, Georgia receiver-returner Mecole Hardman—would enter a season as the rookie with the most pressure to produce at a high level from opening day. With Hill facing a possible suspension to start the season, or more significant banishment, Hardman’s a huge factor for the Chiefs. I went back and watched his highlights from the 2018 national title game against Alabama, and he made a couple of prime-time plays. He took a shotgun snap at quarterback from the ‘Bama 1-yard line, play-faked to Sony Michel, and beat three defenders around the left corner for a touchdown. Then he flashed his 4.33 speed down the right sideline, beating the Alabama corner for an 80-yard TD from Jake Fromm. But is Hardman as tough and competitive as Hill? Will he strike fear into defenses? We’ll see in a tough three-week open to the KC season: at Jacksonville, at Oakland, Baltimore at home.

Read more from Football Morning in America here

2. *NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (2018: 14-5)

I just kept thinking as New England, round-by-round, let tight ends go by in the draft: Well, Bill Belichick knows he needs a tight end badly, and if he doesn’t take one, it must mean he didn’t love one, or he has plans beyond the draft. One of those plans, post-Gronk, was Ben Watson, who was highly peeved to not be active for the NFC title game as a Saint, and felt he had unfinished business as a player when he retired after the season. Watson, even at 38, is a useable player familiar with Patriot ways because he played for them for six years. I’m not sure Austin Seferian-Jenkins will be much of a factor either. And we’ll see who else comes available. Could Kyle Rudolph, for instance, in Minnesota, be a June cap casualty? That would be a golden piece for New England, though I have no idea if he’d sign with the Patriots if released. Looking at the Patriots this spring, I’m not going to sit here and kill them for not taking a Jace Sternberger in the draft. I, along with the rest of the media world, learned a lesson sometime around the fifth or sixth Super Bowl that Belichick and personnel czar Nick Caserio might know what they’re doing, and they usually figure out a better-than-competent roster to play with Tom Brady by November.

Quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts. (Getty Images)

3. *INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (2018: 11-7)

My first surprise, having the Colts this high. I’m relying on Justin Houston an awful lot here. The Colts haven’t had a pass-rusher have a premier season since 2013, when Robert Mathis had his last great rush season with 19.5 sacks. Houston had an impact year at 29 last fall for Kansas City (14 games, 11 sacks, including playoffs), which is why the Colts outbid others for his services on the free market in March. But he missed 5, 12, 1 and 4 games (regular and postseason) in his last four Chief seasons, so this is a gamble. If the Colts get 12 effective games out of him—and if two or three or those are in the postseason—the investment will be worth it. Big if. You can tell I’m buying Houston being able to have one more strong year for a good team. I’m probably sold mostly by the fact I saw his last game for Kansas City—the overtime classic against New England in the AFC title game—and Houston played an astounding 95 of 97 snaps that cold Sunday at Arrowhead, frequently buzzing around Tom Brady.

See where the other 29 teams fall in Peter King’s Football Morning in America

Can Raiders actually trust Josh Jacobs to be a featured RB?

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Josh Jacobs, the first-round pick of the Raiders and the first running back picked in the 2019 draft, takes a truly bizarre college résumé into his NFL career.

• Jacobs played 40 games at Alabama. He ran for 100 yards against Kentucky in his fourth college outing, and then, in his final 36 games, never ran for 100 yards in a game.

• His highest 10 rushing games as a collegian, in yards gained: 100, 98, 97, 97, 89, 83, 68, 57, 52, 51.

• His biggest workloads as a collegian, in numbers of rushes in a game: 20, 16, 15, 12, 11, 11, 10, 9, 9, 8.

• In one of 40 college games, including receptions, Jacobs touched the ball 20 times.

Not to sound an alarm bell or anything, but the Raiders want Jacobs to be a bellcow back, the kind who regularly will have 20 touches or more in a game. It’s entirely possible that he’ll be great at that role. But if he is, it’ll be the first time doing it since high school in Oklahoma. In three years at Alabama, Jacobs was part of Nick Saban’s running back-by-committee system. This is going to be a very interesting test for Jacobs starting in September.

Read more from Football Morning in America here