Los Angeles Rams vs. Chicago Bears
Line: Rams -8.5
Where: SoFi Stadium
When: Sunday, 9/12 at 8:20 p.m. ET
The Matthew Stafford era begins in primetime on Sunday night when Los Angeles hosts Chicago.
Stafford is six months removed from being traded by Detroit, where he spent 12 seasons without winning a playoff game. Now, he is in charge of a talented offense that is hungry for a Super Bowl.
“We’ve had great rapport from the jump,” Los Angeles coach Sean McVay said. “He’s really easy to get along with, but he’s got really strong opinions…He’s had a lot of repetitions playing the quarterback position at a high level in this league, and his ability to recall and remember those and use them to his advantage is really how you get better. It’s been pretty impressive.”
Oddsmakers opened Los Angeles as a 7-point favorite at SoFi Stadium. It has moved off that key number at most sportsbooks, as the Rams are 8.5-point favorites. The total opened at 45 and is still sitting at that mark, as of Saturday morning.
Los Angeles is not the only team breaking in a new quarterback on Sunday night. Chicago will be starting veteran quarterback Andy Dalton in Week 1. Fans are hoping to see rookie Justin Fields make his debut, but that is unlikely early in the season.
Dalton was signed to a one-year deal after completing 64.9 percent of his passes for 2,170 yards with Dallas in 2020. He threw 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Dalton spent the first nine seasons of his career with Cincinnati.
This will not be an easy task for the veteran, who is facing a defense that led the NFL last season. The Rams’ defense is headlined by tackle Aaron Donald—he is going to challenge Chicago’s offensive line throughout the game.
Los Angeles picked up a 24-10 win over Chicago as a 6.5-point home favorite in Week 7 last year. This game will have a much different feel, as that Monday Night Football matchup pitted Jared Goff against Nick Foles.
Foles was picked off twice and sacked four times last season. Dalton will be trying to avoid the same fate against a talented Los Angeles defense.
Stafford has picked up more wins over Chicago than any other team in the NFL during his career. He has led 31 fourth-quarter comebacks, which puts him behind Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger among active quarterbacks.
Sean Desai is in his first season as the defensive coordinator in Chicago, while Raheem Morris is taking over as the Rams defensive coordinator. Brandon Staley took the Chargers head coaching position after having the best defense in the NFL.
The Rams went ‘under’ the total in 11 of their final 15 games to close the 2020 season. They have gone ‘under’ in six of their last eight games against Chicago. The total has also gone ‘under’ in Los Angeles’ last eight home games.
Los Angeles has been getting off to good starts in recent years, covering the spread in five of its last six season-openers. Chicago went 3-6 ATS in its final nine games last year and 2-4 ATS in its last six road games. The Bears are 5-13 in their last 18 road games against the Rams.
The pick: Under 46.5
There has been some surprising movement towards the over in this game. The under is probably a square bet, but I think it is the right play on Sunday night. Los Angeles played lower-scoring games than any team in the NFL last year, particularly down the stretch. It brings back a strong defense that will be facing Dalton in his first start with a new offense. Dalton’s performance in Dallas last year did not give me a ton of confidence in his ability going forward. Stafford did not get any preseason work, so I expect a slow start from the Rams offense. Points are going to be hard to come by in this primetime affair.