Bears-Rams best bets: Chicago faces steep challenge at SoFi

Dustin Bradford / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Sunday nights hit different with Al Michaels and Carrie Underwood.

Andy Dalton and Matthew Stafford debut their new colors in the first Sunday night showdown of the season - and perhaps Justin Fields? - as the Chicago Bears head west to take on the Super Bowl hopeful Los Angeles Rams.

Here are our best bets for Bears-Rams:

Bears under 19 points (-115)

I loved both of these teams coming into the season, mostly on the strength of their elite defenses. I also have supreme confidence in the Rams' offense in its first year with Stafford, my MVP pick.

The lingering question in this matchup is the Bears' offense, which averaged 23.3 points per game in 2020 and brings back largely the same unit in 2021. The key difference is at quarterback, where Dalton appears to be an upgrade over beleaguered starter Mitchell Trubisky.

How much of an upgrade? The Cowboys scored fewer than 20 points in five of Dalton's nine starts in 2020; the Bengals fell below that mark in eight of his 13 starts in 2019. Expect more of the same in Dalton's first game in Matt Nagy's offense - especially against a defense that ranked No. 1 in points and yards allowed a year ago.

- C Jackson Cowart

Rams -7.5

Patience is understandably low in the Windy City given the Bears haven't won a playoff game since 2010. The fan base was utterly despondent entering the offseason after Chicago lost eight of 11 to end last season, but expectations quickly skyrocketed after drafting Fields No. 11 overall. Five months later, Bears fans are getting ready to watch Dalton start in prime time.

The decision to start Dalton Week 1 was an easy one for Matt Nagy, but I'm struggling to find a reason for Bears fans to be excited for Sunday night. We know by now what to expect from a Dalton-run offense, while the Bears' once-vaunted defense is really thinning in talent. The unit is especially vulnerable in the secondary, where Los Angeles' impressive stable of pass-catchers will give them fits.

The Rams don't have the same issue on defense, and it's hard to see how Chicago will block Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd. My only concern is it could take Stafford a half or so to get rolling with this offense in his debut - especially with the starters sitting all preseason - but Sean McVay having an entire summer to game plan helps remove a lot of doubt. I give it less than a half before Bears fans are clamoring for Fields.

- Alex Moretto

Over 46.5

It's time to take the car out of the garage and get it on the highway. McVay finally has a high-performance vehicle to run his offense in Stafford.

The under cashed in the previous three meetings between these teams, but each of those games involved Jared Goff. As such, McVay took minimal risks offensively. The Rams' win last season saw them take an early lead and then kick back in cruise control.

With Stafford, the tempo will be improved and scoring drives should be quicker, resulting in more possessions for each team. Los Angeles can take an early lead and not feel the need to get ultra-conservative. The Rams are much more likely to put up an easy 30 points against a Bears defense whose reputation flatters them, which will set the scene for Dalton to pile points in garbage time against soft Rams coverages.

- Matt Russell

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Bears-Rams best bets: Chicago faces steep challenge at SoFi
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