Efficient Rodgers will strong-arm Chicago
September 24, 2011 - 1:01 am
It’s way too soon in the NFL season to form many concrete conclusions, but a few seem safe, including one on Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Everyone is aware of the so-called Super Bowl hangover. In recent years it has dragged down Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, and Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers, among others.
The Packers might eventually succumb to it, too, and their walk was a little shaky at times in victories over the Saints and Carolina Panthers in the first two weeks. But Rodgers has the same swagger.
Rodgers has completed 70.8 percent of his passes for 620 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. Only Tom Brady looks better.
Few defenses have a prayer of frustrating Rodgers, but the Chicago Bears could be one of them — if the Bears’ “D” from a year ago shows up with its “A” game Sunday at Soldier Field.
In last year’s three matchups, Green Bay’s high-powered offense was limited to 16 points per game against Chicago, and Rodgers was intercepted twice in the Packers’ 21-14 win in the NFC Championship Game.
Of course, the conference title game still is a sore subject for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who watched the second half while nursing a sore knee.
Chicago’s offensive line is capable of opening a few running lanes for Matt Forte, but it also opens a lot of holes for defensive linemen and linebackers to get to Cutler, who has been sacked a league-high 11 times after two games. With that in mind, he won’t be eager to see Clay Matthews and the Packers’ pass rush in his face.
The Bears hope to neutralize Green Bay’s blitzes by going to Forte more often. Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz called 52 pass plays and 11 runs in a 30-13 loss at New Orleans last week, when Brees picked apart the Bears’ defense for 270 yards passing and three touchdowns.
Cutler and Martz are becoming the NFL’s version of Gilligan and the Skipper. I respect good teams as home underdogs but prefer to side with the reliable Rodgers and lay 3½ points with the Packers.
Four more plays for Week 3 (Home team in CAPS):
■ Dolphins (+2½) over BROWNS: The outlook is bleak for Miami coach Tony Sparano because his team continues to flop at home. But the Dolphins are in the right spot as they fare much better on the road, covering 18 of their past 24 games. Sparano would be wise to use Reggie Bush to jump-start the offense.
■ Broncos (+7) over TITANS: This line moved from 6½ to 7 at a few books Friday, so that’s enough to bite on the ‘dog. Denver was getting 6½ in its 26-20 win at Tennessee last year. Running back Chris Johnson has started slowly for the Titans, who don’t deserve to be big favorites.
■ SEAHAWKS (+3½) over Cardinals: It’s not easy to back the Seahawks, with Tarvaris Jackson leading a popgun offense to 17 points in two games. But Seattle is 11-6 against the spread in its past 17 home games, including upset victories over New Orleans and St. Louis late last season. Arizona has a weak defense and is in a tough spot on the road for a second straight week.
■ Redskins (+6) over COWBOYS: All indications are Dallas quarterback Tony Romo will start. But how good will he be with a rib injury? And how effective will his offense be without injured Miles Austin and with Dez Bryant and Felix Jones fighting injuries? The Cowboys are 1-5 ATS in their past six as home favorites.
Last week: 1-2-2 against the spread
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at 702-387-2907 or myoumans@review