The Green Bay Packers missed the playoffs last year for the first time since quarterback Aaron Rodgers took over as the starter in 2008, and much of that can be blamed on a season-ending fractured collarbone he suffered.
Now back in the saddle and $134 million richer after recently signing a four-year contract extension, the Packers will host the Chicago Bears as eight-point home favorites at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com for the Week 1 Sunday night matchup.
Rodgers has absolutely dominated the Bears during his career, posting a 15-4 mark in 19 games against them. Green Bay is also 12-3 against the spread in the past 15 meetings with Chicago, according to the OddsShark NFL Database. In fact, a two-game sweep of the league’s oldest rivalry last year put the Packers ahead 96-94-6 all-time.
Other intriguing NFC matchups earlier on Sunday include the San Francisco 49ers visiting the Minnesota Vikings and the Carolina Panthers hosting the Dallas Cowboys.
Minnesota is a consensus six-point home favorite in the debut of quarterback Kirk Cousins, as he looks to hand San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo (7-0) his first loss as a starter. Garoppolo helped the 49ers win their last five games to end 2017 after starting the season at 1-10. He will have a tough challenge here though, as the Vikings have won five straight in the series at home by an average of nearly 15 points.
The Cowboys were road warriors last year and hope to continue playing well away from home at Carolina. Dallas is 6-1 straight up and 5-1-1 ATS in its last seven road games and has also gone 5-1 SU and ATS in its past six as a visitor in the month of September. The Panthers closed out the 2017 regular season with seven wins in nine games before falling to the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
In the AFC, there are also three games that should be must-see TV, starting with the Houston Texans visiting the New England Patriots and the Cleveland Browns hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers. Houston fell 36-33 at New England last season on a game-winning touchdown in the final minute and will be out to avenge that loss as a 6.5-point road underdog.
Cleveland nearly upset Pittsburgh in Week 1 a year ago but covered the spread as a 10-point home underdog in a 21-18 loss. But the Browns are just four-point home underdogs this time around facing a Steelers squad possibly without running back Le’Veon Bell, who has yet to sign his franchise tender and may or may not play.
Later, the Los Angeles Chargers will host the Kansas City Chiefs as 3.5-point home favorites in an AFC West matchup. The Chargers are a popular pick to win the division this year, but the Chiefs have won eight straight games in the series and have gone 7-2 ATS in the previous nine. However, Alex Smith was Kansas City’s quarterback during that stretch, and second-year player Patrick Mahomes is taking over this season.