The Los Angeles Rams will kick off the Matthew Stafford era on Sunday night with the Chicago Bears, an opponent he is used to seeing twice a year for the last dozen years in Detroit. But while Chicago could have ushered in a new era with rookie Justin Fields, we are going to see Andy Dalton in his team debut try to score on Aaron Donald and company. Let’s see the NFL odds for this matchup.
Chicago Bears vs. Los Angeles Rams
Sunday, September 12, 2021 – 08:20 PM EDT at SoFi Stadium
The Rams are a 7.5-point favorite at many of the top sportsbooks. Head coach Sean McVay is 22-4 SU as a favorite of more than five points, but the Rams did suffer the upset of 2020 when the 17.5-point underdog Jets beat them 23-20 in Los Angeles last December.
After No Preseason Action
We Finally See Matthew Stafford in a Rams Uniform. McVay is no stranger to resting his starters in the preseason as he has done it in previous years with the Rams. Rust has not been an issue out the gate as McVay is 4-0 in season openers, including a 20-17 win over Dallas on Sunday Night Football to begin the 2020 season.
All eyes will be on Matthew Stafford in this one as he makes his team debut after a dozen years with the Detroit Lions. Stafford was 11-9 as a starter against the Bears when he was in Detroit. He has passed for over 200 yards in every game against the Bears except for when he left early in the 2010 opener, a game made famous for the Calvin Johnson Rule at the end.
In his last meeting with the Bears last December, Stafford passed for 402 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-30 upset win. He has only beaten the Bears by more than seven points four times in his career, but this is no longer Detroit.
When the Rams beat the Bears 24-10 last season, Jared Goff threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie running back Cam Akers was active but never touched the ball as Darrell Henderson (63 yards) and Malcolm Brown (57 yards) paced the running game with 120 yards. Akers is out for the season after injuring his Achilles in July. The team will lean on Henderson and Sony Michel from the Patriots.
If there was a positive for Chicago’s defense in the last matchup, top wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods were held to 65 yards on nine catches. Woods fumbled in the fourth quarter and it was returned for a touchdown, the only touchdown of the night for the Bears. Look for Stafford to get his receivers more involved in this one.
As proof this is new territory for Stafford, this is only the 12th time his team is a favorite of 7.5 points or more and the first time since 2017. He is 10-1 SU and 5-6 ATS in those games.
Andy Dalton Really Is QB1… for Now
Call me crazy, but I think starting Justin Fields and letting him play defense with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey on the field would be a great test to see what he can do. He’ll have to do it eventually anyway. Alas, we are getting Andy Dalton, and head coach Matt Nagy had one of the funnier quotes in August when he said, “we need to see him in the regular season.”
Do we? After 10 years and 149 appearances with the Bengals and Cowboys, I think the jury is out on what Dalton brings to the table in the NFL. Unfortunately for us viewers, he has been one of the worst island game quarterbacks in the NFL. He is 6-17 in prime time and 0-4 in the playoffs in his career with poor stats to match.
As an underdog of more than seven points, Dalton is 1-7 SU and 3-5 ATS. His only win was in Week 17 in 2017 when he knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs (and put Buffalo in) with a long touchdown on fourth down. That is kind of the last notable moment in Dalton’s career after forgettable seasons in Cincinnati and a failed backup stint to Dak Prescott in Dallas last year.
Dalton’s mobility is somewhere between the stuck-in quicksand of Nick Foles and the free spirit of Mitchell Trubisky. With Foles at quarterback last year, the Bears couldn’t move the ball and only kicked a field goal on this defense. If you are the Rams, the matchups should be fairly simple. Use Donald to attack a suspect offensive line. Put Jalen Ramsey on Allen Robinson, the best receiver the Bears have. While Ramsey allowed two catches for 50 yards in last year’s meeting, his second-most yards allowed in the 2020 regular season, he still had an interception that night.
While Stafford will eventually have to reckon with the fact he is 8-68 (.105) against teams that finish the season with a winning record, the Bears are going to struggle just to get to 9-8, especially as long as they are starting Dalton. The last time Dalton beat a winning team was the second week of 2018 against Baltimore.
For my NFL picks, I like the Rams to begin the Stafford era with a big win and cover against the Bears. They should be better on both sides of the ball as this has not been a truly elite Chicago defense since the 2018 season.
The Rams were not a legitimate No. 1 defense in 2020 as that said more about the schedule they faced, but a Dalton-led offense should not be able to score many points in this game.
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.