The Bears will have two new starting quarterbacks play in 2021, with former Bengal Andy Dalton in the lineup for Week 1 with rookie first-rounder Justin Fields looming. They will face a familiar new starting QB for the Rams in former Lion Matthew Stafford on Sunday night (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC).
Stafford went from Detroit to Los Angeles in a blockbuster move. With that he has great expectations to become the winning passer he has never been in his career. Meanwhile, Fields’ potential is through the roof, but Chicago’s coaches are taking a conservative approach with Dalton given the opener figures to be defensively daunting.
The Rams (10-6) and Bears (8-8) were the final two NFC wild-card teams last season, right behind the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. Which team will get on track early for a return to the playoffs? Here’s breaking down the matchup:
Bears vs. Rams odds for ‘Sunday Night Football’
- Spread: Rams by 7.5
- Over/under: 46.5
- Moneyine: Bears +280, Rams -350
The Rams have been a consistent strong favorite since the initial lines were released. They have had positive offensive momentum with Stafford, while Fields has been buzzing a lot more than Dalton. The point total is taking into consideration the quality of both defenses to limit the damage.
(odds courtesy of FanDuel)
Bears vs. Rams all-time series
The Bears hold a decided 54-38-3 advantage overall, but the Rams have had their number in recent meetings. The Rams have won two in a row in dominant fashion the past two seasons, 17-7 in 2019 and 24-10 in 2020. Before then, the Bears had taken six of seven meetings. Sean McVay’s coaching has flipped the script toward Hollywood.
Three trends to know
— 82 percent of bettors think the number is too big and like the Bears to cover despite some offensive limitations against a tough defense on the road in prime time.
— 53 percent of bettors are going with the over, believing the Bears will have more success than expected against stud defensive lineman Aaron Donald and the Rams’ defense.
— The Bears were 8-8 against the spread last season, matching their record, but they were 5-3 covering on the road. The Rams were 9-7 against the spread last season, 5-3 at home. The total also went under in all eight of their 2020 home games.
Three things to watch
Is Stafford ready for this level of prime time?
There has been a lot of hype around Stafford finally getting a real contending team to lift. He has been one of the league’s most proflic quarterbacks for a long time, since he was taken first overall in 2009 draft. He is 6-14 in night games but unlike vs. the Packers or Vikings, he established a winning record against the Bears, 11-9, from his days in NFC North play.
From where will the Rams’ rushing production come”
Cam Akers (Achilles’) is lost for the season and promising second-year man Xavier Johes (ankle) also was felled. But the Rams still have third-year man Darrell Henderson along with former Patriots first-rounder Sony Michel, for whom they traded. Despite the buzz of Stafford passing for McVay, often to top wide receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, the Rams want to be an effective rushing team first behind their strong line. The Bears were a middle-pack run defense last season. Henderson led the way in a 160-yard team rushing effort against them last October.
One and done for Dalton?
There’s a theory coach Matt Nagy and the Bears’ offensive staff didn’t want throw Fields into the fire against the 1-2 punch of Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Dalton is even worse than Stafford in night games, with a 6-17 record along with a dismal 78.7 passer rating under the lights. This feels like another rough game of the Red Rifle being stifled and opening the door for Fields in Week 2.
Stats that matter
4-0 and 15.8. That’s the Rams’ record in four season openers and the average margin of victory in those games. The last two have been much closer, three-point wins over the Panthers and Cowboys. The Bears are 1-2 in their openers with Matt Nagy and this is their first such test outside of the division.
Bears vs. Rams prediction
The Rams have handled the Bears well in the McVay-Nagy offensive-minded rivalry. This result will be no different as the Rams’ defense, even without Brandon Staley and some key pieces from 2020, shuts down Chicago for the most part until some cosmetic second-half scoring. The Bears’ defense has enough holes to exploit in the secondary for a well-protected Stafford throwing to Woods and Kupp for critical big plays that set up the lead and opportunity to close it out running.
Rams 27, Bears 17