We’re back, baby!
Rewrite the script is a perfect motto for this weekend’s season opener because the Bears haven’t been very good in openers in recent years. The Bears have lost seven of their last eight, with their only win in that span coming against the Lions in 2020.
Still, I feel pretty good about the Bears’ chances of upsetting the 49ers this week. They’re at home, new coach, year two for Justin Fields, and it helps that George Kittle is nursing a grade-two groin strain that might keep him out or limited.
Let’s get crazy; it’s a new era in Chicago.
San Francisco 49ers (10-7, 3rd NFC West in ’21) at Chicago Bears (6-11, 3rd NFC North in ’21) – FOX (Joe Davis, Daryl Johnston, & Pam Oliver), WBBM 780 AM, 105.9 FM (Jeff Joniak, Tom Thayer, Mark Grote)
Kickoff Time: 12:00 p.m. CT
Site: Soldier Field, Chicago, Il
Referee: Clay Martin
Odds: SF -7, O/U 40.5 (via DraftKings Sports Book)
We Got $5 On It
Before we covered the Bears Arlington Park Development community meeting at Hersey High School last night, Luis and I had lunch in downtown Arlington Heights and hammered out some Bears coverage details for this season. One of them is the addition of some betting suggestions to the weekly preview.
As Luis put it, we’re not going to encourage you to gamble the mortgage, but we’re going to share some bets with you that we’re playing and, more importantly, why we’re playing them. After all, anyone can tell you to bet X-dollars on Y-outcome without rhyme or reason. But we’re willing to share with you our plays and why we’re doing it. Let’s see if we can win together!
Note: All listed bets were placed on Draft Kings Sportsbook
- Same-Game Parlay: Bears +10.5, Cole Kmet OVER 19.5 receiving yards (+105) — I don’t think the Bears are getting blown out in their home opener with a new coach on their new turf. But there isn’t much value in wagering on the Bears covering 10.5 points on its own. Thus, leaving me to use DraftKings’ SGP option to team it with a Cole Kmet receiving yards prop that I think is achievable. In the nine games that Justin Fields started and finished as a rookie, Cole Kmet averaged 36.7 receiving yards. But for the sake of making this wager, we’ll highlight that in six of those nine games, Kmet gained at least 22 receiving yards. With the Bears not having a clear-cut WR2, those duties might fall to Kmet. A $5 bet pays out $10.25, which might buy you a frosty post-game beverage.
- Straight: Total Field Goals OVER 3.5 (+135) — An 80 percent chance of rain in the forecast could muck this up. But I still see an opportunity for kickers to shine. Last year, Joey Slye and Cairo Santos combined to make seven field goals at Soldier Field. It surprises me to see something similar with Santos and a healthy Robbie Gould. A $5 wager would pay out $11.75. That’ll buy a big Italian beef after the game. You’ll deserve it. Treat yourself.
- Same-Game Parlay: Bears Money Line, Bears OVER 16.5 total points, Bears OVER 1.5 total touchdowns (+330) — Look, I think that the Bears can beat San Francisco (more on that in the Three Bears section) this weekend, so taking the Bears money line (+245 as a straight) was a no-brainer for me. The extra juice here on the SGP comes from the expectation that the Bears will score 17 points and two touchdowns in addition to winning, which seems like something they would have to do to win in the first place. Five bucks wins you $21.50 on this one… don’t overthink it.
- Same-Game Parlay: David Montgomery anytime TD scorer, Elijah Mitchell anytime TD scorer (+450) — Elijah Mitchell gutted the Bears last year, rattling off 137 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Figuring him in for a San Francisco TD on Sunday probably isn’t a bad idea. David Montgomery didn’t play in the San Francisco game last season, but if the Bears are going to have a shot in this one, a Monty touchdown seems likely. Five bucks wins you $27.50 on this one.
You can get in on this action at DraftKings:
But there are a number of other official gambling apps you can use (with some juicy promos) right here.
Starting QBs and Projected Game Stats
49ers: Trey Lance: 17/27, 276 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 INT; 2 carries, 6 rushing yards
Bears: Justin Fields: 21/33, 226 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 6 carries, 36 rushing yards
Bears Projected Starters
• QB Justin Fields
• RB David Montgomery
• WRs Darnell Mooney, Equanimeous St. Brown
• TE Cole Kmet
• LT Braxton Jones, LG Cody Whitehair, C Lucas Patrick (maybe — the Bears are looking at different OL combos now that Patrick is back), RG Teven Jenkins, RT Larry Borom
• LDE Al-Quadin Muhammad, LDT Angelo Blackson, RDT Justin Jones, RDE Robert Quinn
• SAM Nicholas Morrow, MIKE Matt Adams, WILL Roquan Smith
• LCB Jaylon Johnson, RCB Kyler Gordon
• FS Eddie Jackson, SS Jaquan Brisker
• Cairo Santos (kicker), Trenton Gill (punter, holder), Patrick Scales (long snapper), Khalil Herbert, Velus Jones Jr. (kick and punt returns) (if he is healthy, of course)
49ers Projected Starters
• QB Trey Lance
• RB Elijah Mitchell
• WR Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk
• TE George Kittle
• LT Trent Williams, LG Aaron Banks, C Jake Brendel, RG Spencer Burford, RT Mike McGlinchey
• LDE Samson Ebukam, LDT Javon Kinlaw, RDT Arik Armstead, RDE Nick Bosa
• WLB Dre Greenlaw, MLB Fred Warner, SLB Azeez Al-Shaair
• LCB Emmanuel Moseley, RCB Chavarius Ward
• FS George Odom, SS Talanoa Hufanga
• Robbie Gould (kicker), Mitch Wishnowsky (punter, holder), Taybor Pepper (long snapper), Ray-Ray McCloud III (kick and punt returns)
Braxton Jones will make his first regular-season start this week after winning the coaching staff over during camp and the preseason. Jones will have to line up against Nick Bosa on Sunday, and while Justin Fields knows that Jones has his work cut out for him.
“I hope none of y’all expect him to win every rep against Bosa in a game,” Fields said earlier this week. “He knows he’s not going to win every rep.”
Fields made it clear that Jones isn’t alone and Nick Bosa will get the best of most of his matchups, so you take it one play at a time. Still, it’s an arduous task for a rookie lineman. Jones looked the part in the preseason, netting a 75.5 pass-blocking grade from PFF. According to PFF, Jones had a 91.2 percent efficiency rating in true pass blocking opportunities, allowing just three pressures in 17 chances.
“It’s a great challenge for him,” Luke Getsy said, via Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “Any time you play someone of the caliber as Mr. Bosa presents for you, you’ve got to have a plan. Regardless of who your right or left tackle are, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got a plan. Because he’s someone that can change the game, and you’ve gotta do your best to make sure that you minimize that as much as you can.”
Braxton Jones won’t win all of his reps against Bosa, but winning most of them would go a long way towards the Bears having success getting the ball down the field on Sunday.
Justin Fields enters Sunday as the team’s unquestioned QB1, and nothing much matters this season regarding wins and losses. Justin Fields’ development is priority No. 1 for the Bears. Fields displayed flashes of why in last season’s matchup with the 49ers. Fields completed 19-of-27 (70.4%) for 175 yards, a touchdown, and an interception through the air and ran for 103 yards and a touchdown in a losing effort.
The San Francisco game was Fields’ second-highest offensive grade (76.7) on PFF, his fourth-best passing grade (65.7), and his top rushing grade (85.6) of the season.
I’ll say it again, that last preseason game against Cleveland was a huge confidence builder for Fields and the Bears heading into this contest. Forget about the numbers (which were fantastic) and focus on what you saw with your eyes. Focus on what Fields did in Luke Getsy’s offense to get the Bears down the field and into the end zone multiple times. Most importantly, focus on how cool and collected he looked doing those things.
If preseason growth doesn’t do it for you, look back at last season:
- First 5 starts: 67-116 (57.7%), 746 YDS, 2 TD, 5 INT, 64.8 RTG, 20 SCK, 23 RSH, 106 YDS, 4.6 Y/A, 0 TD
- Last 5 starts: 84-139 (60.4%), 1,054 YDS, 5 TD, 4 INT, 84.0 RTG, 14 SCK, 38 RSH, 280 YDS, 7.3 Y/A, 1 TD
The progression is there. The numbers weren’t sexy on either side of the spectrum, but we’re in business as long as the arrow points up. San Francisco’s defense is a great early test for Fields, and I’m excited to see what comes of it.
Cole Kmet might be in line for a breakout season. With the Bears devoid of a true WR1 and any real WR2 behind the defect WR1 Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet might become Justin Fields’ second-favorite target. We saw Luke Getsy get tight ends involved in the passing game during the preseason, and we’ll see a more robust play-calling experience starting this week.
This is a make-or-break year for Kmet, and I’ve got a feeling he will make it. Get ready for plenty of this from these two this season: