- Ben Fawkes, NFL
It seems like a long time ago when the Green Bay Packers were 1-2 and people were questioning whether they could be contenders in the NFC. After four straight victories (3-1 against the spread), that question has been answered. And remember, they still have some guy named Aaron Rodgers (aka the best QB in the NFL) leading them on offense.
The Packers (4-3 ATS overall) have been beset by a barrage of injuries to their best skill players, including Clay Matthews and Casey Hayward on defense and James Jones, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley on offense. But the injuries have actually helped diversify Green Bay's offense, which now boasts the No. 3 rushing attack in the NFL (141.4 yards per game) led by Eddie Lacy. The fact that this offense leads the NFL in yards per play (6.49) and started last Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings with Myles White and Jarrett Boykin at wideout (along with Jordy Nelson) and Andrew Quarless at tight end is a testament to just how good Rodgers is -- and how bad Minnesota's defense is.
On the opposing sideline, the 4-3 Chicago Bears (1-5-1 ATS) are dealing with the same issue they've been dealing with for years: what to do with Jay Cutler. Cutler has played better this season, ranking ninth in Total QBR before going down with a groin injury two weeks ago, but he will always be a gunslinger who has the dual ability to destroy his team's chances to win a game (see: Week 4 in Detroit) and to lead an inspired comeback (see: Week 2 against Minnesota). The offensive line has been better with impressive rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills shoring up the unit, and Cutler has taken only 10 sacks this season, second-fewest in the NFL among starting QBs. It seems likely that Chicago will give Cutler an extension after this season, but ownership would surely like to see a couple more games and a playoff run to be sure. In the meantime, it's The Josh McCown Show in Chicago.
The bigger problem in Chicago could be the defense. Despite being labeled as "too old" for several years, it continued to perform at an elite level until this campaign. This season, it ranks 17th overall in DVOA, according to Football Outsiders, and 31st in adjusted sack rate. The defense simply isn't as formidable as it was a couple of years ago, giving the offense a smaller margin for error.
This line opened at Green Bay minus-7.5 at the Las Vegas Hotel and was quickly bet up to 10.5. Not surprisingly, 66 percent of the public likes the Packers to cover, according to ESPN Insider's PickCenter.
Let's turn to analysis on the line from Jay Kornegay of the Las Vegas Hotel and an ATS pick on the game from Insider's panel of handicappers.
Matchup: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Spread: Opened Green Bay minus-7.5; now Green Bay minus-10.5
Total: Opened 49.5; now 50.5