College basketball clearly reigns supreme in March sports betting circles. But the NFL always looms large. That seems to be true irrespective of where we stand on the calendar.
From a general fandom perspective, it’s the unfailing pace of the offseason that does the trick.
The “Underwear Olympics” — aka the Combine — in late February/early March. Free agency later that month. The draft (and the hype that precedes it) in April. Mini-camps in May. And full-fledged training camp, along with HBO’s Hard Knocks, beginning in late July.
Now that legalized sports betting is slowly but surely spreading its wings, the drip-drip fashion in which the national Week 1 games are released in the latter stages of March could start taking on added significance. That immediately leads to the first betting lines of the regular season, which equates to another temporary offseason “fix” for the proverbial NFL junkie.
DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook were both glad to oblige on Monday. Each released point spreads for the Green Bay Packers–Chicago Bears showdown that we now know will officially kick off the 2019 regular season on Thursday, Sept. 5. FanDuel is also listing moneyline odds for the game.
Bears are early, but narrow, favorites
Unsurprisingly, both sites have the Bears installed as favorites. The fact the game unfolds at Soldier Field would essentially grant Chicago a three-point cushion from the jump.
Interestingly — considering the disparity in the 2018 records of both squads — the oddsmakers aren’t going too far beyond that number. The Bears opened as four-point favorites on FanDuel. DraftKings goes further, shaving a half-point off that number. Moneyline odds on FanDuel sit at -194 for a Chicago win and +166 for a Packers upset.
The Bears bowed out in the wild-card round of the playoffs last year with a heartbreaking 16-15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Since-released placekicker Cody Parkey missed a 43-yard field-goal attempt with 10 seconds remaining to abruptly end Chicago’s season. The Bears secured the NFC Central crown with a 12-4 regular-season mark while allowing the fewest points (283) in the league.
Meanwhile, the Packers saw franchise cornerstone Aaron Rodgers get through the season on essentially one knee. No matter, Rodgers still threw 25 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. He also racked up 4,442 passing yards, the second-highest total of his career. Yet, a defense that allowed 400 points helped lead to a 6-9-1 record, including a 1-7 road tally.
Packers dominate series in recent years
Neither team made any splashes in free agency, either. In fact, the Packers lost long-time but oft-injured Randall Cobb to the Dallas Cowboys. But, Green Bay did prove a tough out for the Bears in their two meetings last season.
Chicago prevailed 24-17 in a Week 15 meeting at Soldier Field, although the game was tied at 14 heading into the final period. However, the Pack had gotten the best of the Bears in a memorable Sunday night season opener at Lambeau. Rodgers bounced back after suffering the knee injury that ultimately would plague him all season to throw three second-half touchdowns for a wild 24-23 win.
Notably, the Bears have dropped five of their last six regular-season meetings with the Packers, and nine of their last 12 overall. That track record — as well as the impact of a presumably healthy Rodgers and new head coach Matt LaFleur‘s playcalling — may certainly be influencing the relatively narrow line.
In addition to the Packers-Bears divisional showdown, the NFL has announced the defending champion Patriots will headline the 2019 debut of Sunday Night Football against a to-be-determined opponent. The remainder of the NFL regular-season schedule is typically unveiled in mid-to-late April in the days leading up to the draft.