The first Sunday Night Football matchup of the 2021 NFL season in Week 1 features the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams, two teams that are seeking fresh starts this year.
The Bears traded up in the 2021 NFL Draft to select rookie quarterback Justin Fields. However, that was after they’d already promised newly-acquired veteran Andy Dalton the starting quarterback job. At this point in time, it appears likely that Dalton will indeed be under center for Chicago, at least in Week 1.
On the other hand, the Rams made a huge splash by trading quarterback Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford. They suffered a significant loss, however, when running back Cam Akers went down with an Achilles injury during an offseason workout.
In short, both offenses have new faces and appear improved, while both defenses could find themselves at the top of defensive rankings by the end of the year. This should result in an exciting game that will be fun to watch and even more fun to wager on.
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Sunday Night Football Prediction
Chicago struggled to score points last season, averaging just 22.4 points per game (including the postseason) with one of the worst passing attacks in all of football behind Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky.
The Bears were quick to address this deficiency through the draft and free agency, but they’re going to need a whole lot more from this roster beyond Dalton and Fields. Despite having some solid weapons like David Montgomery and Allen Robinson, Chicago may struggle to move the ball against the suffocating Los Angeles defense.
Defensively, the Bears are sound and allowed only 23 points per game. However, they’ll have to improve by producing more sacks and takeaways.
That said, Chicago could be meeting Los Angeles at the perfect time, as the Rams’ offense may still be a work in progress. Adding Stafford raises their ceiling considerably, but let’s not forget that he hasn’t won much as of late. It might take him a while to get on the same page with his new teammates, similar to what happened with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year.
The big difference between Stafford and Goff is their performance late in games under pressure. Stafford has led the NFL multiple times in fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives, two categories where Goff has struggled. When LA’s defense gets stops, its offense has chances to win games late with the ball in Stafford’s hands.
The Rams’ defense lost some of their core from last year — including defensive coordinator Brandon Staley — but that shouldn’t stop them from shutting down the Bears’ offense. While both units are strong defensively, Los Angeles has more offensive firepower and should be able to prevail in a low-scoring game.
SNF Pick: Rams 20, Bears 10
Sunday Night Football Best Bets
SNF Best Bet: Rams Moneyline (-425)
Nobody’s ready to put money on Dalton for his start with the Bears, as he’s merely a placeholder until Fields is ready. Dalton posted a losing record with the Dallas Cowboys last season despite having incredible weapons such as Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup. The 33-year-old is clearly past his prime and will likely struggle this year with a weaker supporting cast.
Stafford, on the other hand, has been one of the NFL’s better signal callers for a decade and is expected to be in the MVP conversation this year. Los Angeles’ run game will suffer without Akers, but their defense is still stacked and the offensive line has plenty of experience.
The Bears’ defense gets stops, but they don’t make big plays on the defensive end. The Rams do, and should be able to force at least one turnover. In what has the potential to be a close, low-scoring game, that could make all the difference.
With this game being played in Los Angeles, look for the home team to prevail in their season opener and Stafford to win his Rams debut.
SNF Best Bet: Under 46.5 Total Points (-110)
In a game where both quarterbacks are still getting used to their new teams and dealing with tough opposing defenses, I’m not expecting either side to light up the scoreboard.
The Rams allowed the fewest points in the NFL last year and were the top-rated defense according to Pro Football Focus. They didn’t miss tackles, had a great pass rush, and displayed terrific coverage. Meanwhile, the Bears ranked fifth on the same list thanks to their strong pass rush.
With both quarterbacks likely to be under duress and not fully comfortable with their teammates yet, we probably won’t see too many scoring drives in this one. Take the under.
SNF Best Bet: Rams -8 (-105)
On paper, Los Angeles is better than Chicago in almost every facet of the game. The Rams have the edge at quarterback, skill players, head coach, and defense. The only place where the Bears have a clear advantage is at tailback, which isn’t a game-changer.
Dalton and his teammates will be hard-pressed to move the chains and sustain drives against Los Angeles. Chicago’s defense will slow Stafford and co. down too, but won’t be able to stop them completely. The Rams won by two touchdowns when these teams faced off last year, so I think they’ll be able to win by more than a touchdown again.
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