A classic NFL rivalry attracts our spotlight as the 2023 regular season begins.
The Green Bay Packers visit the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field and stand out as our top target of Week 1.
We also take a closer look at two other games grabbing our attention with intriguing betting angles.
Packers at Bears, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday
The line: Bears (-1)
One popular perception about the Packers is that the team will suffer from the departure of Aaron Rodgers, which resulted in an unproven QB1 to begin the 2023 season.
But a closer look shows that Rodgers was merely mortal in 2022, and that Jordan Love doesn’t have to play like an All-Pro to be useful.
Love has a young and improving receiving corps led by Christian Watson, and a reliable rushing attack with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon returning.
Perhaps best of all, Love is intimately familiar with adversity.
A first-round pick by Green Bay in 2020, Love watched future Hall of Famer (Rodgers) conduct his business, and has been praised for his approach leading into this season.
“He always come across as kind of a cool customer. … Through all the ups and downs that he’s had, he’s maintained a very steady, even keeled approach,” Packers general manager Brian Gutenkust said during training camp.
Love hopes to keep Green Bay’s dominance over Chicago alive – the Packers have won eight consecutive games against the Bears, including the past four in Chicago.
Chicago and Green Bay are both pegged at 7.5 wins on the Vegas regular-season over/under, but the Bears appear to have more questions than answers.
Quarterback Justin Fields had a breakout season, though his team finished 3-14 and the “breakout” didn’t really involve the passing attack.
Fields surprised everyone with the volume of rushing success but surprised no one with his relative lack of passing success. Bears backers point to the arrival of star wideout DJ Moore, but Moore will need to provide some serious yards-after-catch stats because Fields will lean on the short passing game.
The Bears lost running back David Montgomery and now rely on Khalil Herbert to carry the load. Already, though, there is talk about rookie fourth-round pick Roschan Johnson moving ahead of D’Onte Foreman and making a case for playing time.
According to Action Network stats, Chicago is 12-28-1 against the spread over the past 20 years vs. Green Bay. The Bears lost seven home games in a row to close the 2022 season and 10 straight games overall.
Fields vs. Packers DBs: If Fields can succeed with more than just the short-pass, checkdown game, the Packers could be in trouble.
Green Bay’s defensive game plan will have a key focus on stopping the run – including Fields – and daring Fields to beat them deep a few times. That means Moore will have to find success against two-time Pro Bowl corner Jaire Alexander.
Not an easy task.
The pick: Packers 23-17.
A pair of Sunday games that have trends to track.
Panthers at Falcons, 1 p.m. ET, Sunday
The line: Falcons (-3.5)
The number opened at Falcons -2 but has steadily risen during the week and now sits above the magic 3-point mark at 3.5.
The pick: Falcons -3.5.
The big reasons: No. 1 overall draft pick QBs in their first NFL game. Major talent disparity.
Carolina’s Bryce Young fits the profile. He’s the 18th No. 1 overall pick to start at QB Week 1 of his draft year since the AFL-NFL merger.
The previous 17 went 3-13-1 straight up and 5-12 against the spread in their debut.
As for the talent issue? Wide receiver DJ Moore is gone from Carolina, and the favorite to win NFL Rookie of the Year, running back Bijan Robinson, leads the Atlanta rushing attack.
Last season, the Falcons rushed for 159.9 yards per game; the Panthers could manage an average of only 306.2 yards of total offense, 28th in the NFL.
Give the points or play it safe and take Atlanta straight up (-185 at BetMGM as of Thursday).
Buccaneers at Vikings, 1 p.m. ET, Sunday
The line: Vikings (-5.5)
So many factors lead to one team here, as Minnesota has a new defensive coordinator, Brian Flores, and Tampa Bay has a coach who’s historically inept as an underdog.
The pick: Vikings -5.5
The big reasons: Coaching and quarterback advantage.
Bucs coach Todd Bowles is 12-36 straight up as an underdog and 18-27-2 against the spread.
The Vikings don’t lack for motivation, given their over/under win total of 8.5 is a full 4.5 games below what they accomplished in 2022.
Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins has top target Justin Jefferson and rookie Jordan Addison. Tampa has Baker Mayfield trying for career reboot No. 3.
–Field Level Media