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Monday, November 4, 2013

NFL Preview 2013 Week 9: Bears vs Packers

Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers

Market Watch

Before a snap was played in Week 9, Las Vegas set the Packers as -8 point favorites in the look-ahead line. A big reason why this line was so high was the injury to Jay Cutler, but overall the Bears just haven't been very good this season. Meanwhile, the Packers continue to roll despite their injuries, which is why Vegas reopened them as -10.5 favorites for this game after Week 9 was done.

Since then we haven't seen much movement. The line has gone back and forth between -10 and -11, and it currently sits at -10.5 at most places.  66% of bets are on the home team.

Keep an eye on

Injuries. Green Bay are down three starters from opening day and James Jones might join them as he's listed as 'questionable'. Chicago have lost four starters from their opening day roster.

Usually, the first player we talk about when analyzing a Packers game is Aaron Rodgers. Yet, more and more attention should be paid to Eddie Lacy. His emergence as a difference maker couldn't have come at a better time given all the injuries to wide receivers. Lacy has the most rushing yards in the league since he returned from his Week 4 injury, and over half of those yards have come after contact.

Can the Bears stop him? Their front seven has been decimated with injuries, with Lance Briggs the latest to go down. This has thrust rookie Jon Bostic into the limelight, but he hasn't done well against the run since being inserted as the starter.

The other primary threat Chicago need to worry about is Jordy Nelson. When it comes to pass-catchers, not many are better than him at the moment. The Bears are lucky to have one of the best cornerback tandems in the league with Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, but overall Chicago's pass defense ranks near the bottom of the NFL.

Complicating matters, Chicago's defense also rank near the bottom in sacks and third down efficiency.

Trying to keep up with Rodgers and company will be Josh McCown. He's not the ideal guy to have under center, but he can string together productive drives. It also helps that he has guys like Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, Martellus Bennett, and Matt Forte.

Combined, they make up an offense that is much improved over recent years. They especially excel in the red zone with one of the highest touchdown conversion rates in the NFL. This just so happens to be where the Packers are weakest. In fact, Green Bay rank dead last in red zone defense through 8 weeks.

The challenge for Chicago will be whether or not they can reach the red zone on a consistent basis. Green Bay have been really good at getting off the field on third down and their sack rate has actually increased since the loss of Clay Matthews.

Bottom Line

It's hard to say which team has the advantage after you take the 10.5 point spread into consideration. On paper, the Bears don't matchup with the Packers very well on either side of the ball. Yet, we've seen many overmatched underdogs rise up under the bright lights of prime-time and make it a game.

Ultimately, Green Bay should have no problem taking advantage of a depleted defense and a backup quarterback. They've had inflated point spreads four weeks in a row and they've covered every single one of them. I think they can do it again on Monday night, but I'm not a fan of laying double digits on a favorite so I'll sit this one out.

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