The Bears will have two new starting quarterbacks in 2021, with former Bengal Andy Dalton in the lineup for Week 1 with first-round rookie Justin Fields in the offing. They will face a new and familiar starting QB for the Rams in former Leon Matthew Stafford on Sunday night (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC).
Stafford left Detroit for Los Angeles in a highly successful move. With that, he has high expectations of becoming the winning passer he has never been in his career. Meanwhile, Fields’ potential is through the roof, but Chicago coaches are taking a conservative approach with Dalton as early numbers are defensively disappointing.
The Rams (10-6) and Bears (8-8) were the last two wild-card teams in the NFC last season, just behind the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. Which team will head early to return to the playoffs? Here’s breaking down the showdown:
NFL WEEK 1 OPTIONS: Against the Spread | Direct predictions
Bears vs Rams odds for ‘Sunday Night Football’
- Spread: Rams by 7.5
- Below: 46.5
- Moneyine: Bears +280, Rams -350
The Rams have been a consistent big favorite since the opening lines were launched. They’ve had positive offensive momentum with Stafford, while Fields has been far more excited than Dalton. The total of points is taking into account the quality of both defenses to limit the damage.
(odds courtesy of FanDuel)
Bears vs. Rams All-Time Series
The Bears have a decided 54-38-3 lead overall, but the Rams have had their number in recent meetings. The Rams have won two in a row in a dominant fashion the last two seasons, 17-7 in 2019 and 24-10 in 2020. Before that, the Bears had won six of seven games. Sean McVay’s training has changed the script towards Hollywood.
Three trends to know
– 82 percent of bettors think the number is too big and like the Bears to cover it despite some offensive limitations against a tough defense on the road at prime time.
– 53 percent of bettors go last, believing the Bears will have more success than expected against defensive lineman Aaron Donald and the Rams defense.
– The Bears were 8-8 against the spread last season, matching their record, but covered 5-3 on the road. The Rams were 9-7 against the Spread last season, 5-3 at home. The total was also down in all eight 2020 home games.
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Three things to look at
Is Stafford ready for this level of primetime?
There has been so much excitement around Stafford that he finally managed to build up a real competing team. He’s been one of the league’s most professional quarterbacks for a long time, ever since he was picked first overall in the 2009 draft. He’s 6-14 in night games, but unlike the Packers or Vikings, set a winning record against the Bears, 11-9, since his days in the NFC North.
Where will the Rams’ accelerated production come from?
Cam Akers (Achilles) is missing for the season and promising sophomore Xavier Johes (ankle) was also knocked down. But the Rams still have third-year Darrell Henderson along with former Patriots first-round player Sony Michel, whom they traded for. Despite the rumor that Stafford passes through McVay, often top wide receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, the Rams want to be an effective team that runs behind their strong line first. The Bears were a middle-group running defense last season. Henderson led the way in a 160-yard team effort against them last October.
One and ready for Dalton?
There’s a theory that coach Matt Nagy and the Bears offensive staff didn’t want to throw Fields into the fire against Donald’s 1-2 hit and cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Dalton is even worse than Stafford in night games, going 6-17 along with a dismal 78.7 passer rating under the lights. This feels like another badass game where the red rifle suffocates and opens the door for Fields in week 2.
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Statistics that matter
4-0 and 15.8. That’s the Rams’ record in four season starts and the average margin of victory in those games. The last two have been much closer, three-point wins over the Panthers and the Cowboys. The Bears are 1-2 in their first games 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 offensive-minded McVay-Nagy rivalry. This result will be no different as the Rams defense, even without Brandon Staley and some key 2020 pieces, shut down Chicago for the most part until some cosmetic scores are scored in the second half. The Bears defense has enough holes to explode in the secondary for a well-protected Stafford pitch to Woods and Kupp for big critical plays that established the lead and the chance to close out the run.
Rams 27, Bears 17
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.