In a division that includes a 13-win team from 2022, the one that finished in last place with just three victories has the backing of some bettors heading into the NFL season because they believe the quarterback will make “The Leap.”
Not a leap at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, where Jordan Love is now the starter following the departure of Aaron Rodgers. Rather, it’s Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears who have been the apple of the eye of some sports bettors, convinced the third-year quarterback can help restore the Monsters of the Midway to a place atop a wide-open NFC North.
Fields will get an immediate opportunity to live up to the hype since Chicago opens the season at home Sunday against Love and Green Bay — the 207th time the archrivals will have met overall. The 11th overall pick in 2021 is 0-4 against the Packers despite moments of brilliance — he had a 55-yard touchdown run in last year’s matchup at Soldier Field before Rodgers rallied the Packers with 18 fourth-quarter points to deal the Bears a 28-19 defeat.
That game somewhat encapsulates Fields’ first two seasons in the Windy City — moments when his elite two-way athleticism can create highlight-reel plays, but not often enough to get Chicago over the hump. The Bears went 3-14 last year despite Fields rushing for 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns while throwing for 2,242 yards and 17 TDs.
Chicago is all-in on Fields. The Bears could have dealt him this offseason since they held the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Instead, they dealt it to Carolina and got pieces designed to lift the overall quality of the offense. If Fields can make those pieces fit while continuing to progress as a pocket quarterback, bettors in Illinois and around the nation exploring the sports wagering marketplace could get a nice payday for taking a flyer on his potential.
Spending draft capital
I had the chance to sit down with Justin Fields this week to talk about the season, his growth, the offense.
There’s *a lot* here from QB1 on expectations, on DJ Moore, on his bond w Luke Getsy and on the under appreciated value of a vet QB2.
— Dan Wiederer (@danwiederer) September 1, 2023
The Bears got a significant haul by shipping the No. 1 overall pick to Carolina and receiving the ninth overall pick, which they then dealt to Philadelphia and moved one slot down before taking offensive lineman Darnell Wright. The late second-round pick acquired in the Carolina deal was used in a trade with Jacksonville to select defensive lineman Tyrique Stevenson.
But for this year, the most important piece of the trade was DJ Moore, who instantly became the best wide receiver target Fields has had. Moore is a proven commodity with three 1,000-yard seasons at Carolina in his five seasons, although his production slipped to 63 catches for 888 yards last year as the Panthers rotated three quarterbacks.
Opposite Moore is Chase Claypool, acquired from Pittsburgh before last year’s trade deadline, and holdover Darnell Mooney, himself a 1,000-yard receiver. Tight end Cole Kmet has been a steady presence growing into the offense with Fields and was a bona fide red zone threat in 2022 with seven TD catches.
When looking into the sportsbooks’ over/under totals for Fields’ passing yards, it is important to remember he has yet to record a 300-yard passing game and has attempted more than 30 passes just three times in his career. The totals vary from sportsbook to sportsbook, with FanDuel on the low end at 2,775.5 yards, offering -112 on both sides.
Caesars Sportsbook and BetRivers are more bullish on Fields, listing 2900.5 yards with splits of -115 and -106/-118, respectively. DraftKings and Hard Rock Bet have staked out a middle ground of sorts, setting their number at 2850.5 yards at -110.
There is a similar lack of consensus for his rushing yards, though Fields is not expected to have a second consecutive 1,000-yard season. BetRivers is offering a +100/-124 split at 850.5 yards for Fields backers, while Caesars is taking the middle ground at 825.5 yards (-115). DraftKings and FanDuel are both listing 800.5 yards, with the former offering -110 and the latter -112.
Despite having an over/under below 3,000 passing yards, Fields has gotten plenty of play as an NFL MVP option. He has been a steady top-five option at +2000 at BetRivers throughout the summer, ranking second in tickets from June to August and in the top four in handle at just over 14%. He has been the top option at PointsBet, with 17.8% of tickets and No. 2 in handle at 16.4%, with his odds there shortening from +1800 in June to the current +1500.
His odds at DraftKings have held steady most of the summer at +2000, drawing 10% of tickets and 11% of handle. Fields was a consensus +3000 pick at the start of the offseason. Five of the last 10 NFL MVPs have started the offseason at +3000 or longer odds, with Rodgers the last to win the award in 2021 at +3000.
Can Fields deliver the Bears to the postseason?
Sal Pal spittin facts
Justin Fields last 8 games:
63% comp rate
82% on target rate
D.J. More 2022:
1.7% Drop Rate
— FitzMagic🍀 (@CheapSeats411) August 23, 2023
The confidence in Fields is carrying over to bets on the Bears making the playoffs for the first time since 2020 and notching their first winning season since going 12-4 in 2018. BetRivers has seen lopsided action on the “Yes” option for the Bears making the playoffs, with 92% of the handle and 85% of tickets pointing in that direction.
DraftKings has seen even more lopsided ticket action, with 94% taking the “Yes” option. The handle on that play there, however, is far more balanced with a 55-45 split. PointsBet noted the action on Chicago has represented 12% of all Yes/No plays, as the yes reached as high as +165 on Aug. 1 before landing at its current listing of +150.
PointsBet also has seen significant action on the Bears winning the NFC North for the first time in five years, with 37.6% of tickets and more than one-third of the handle among division teams. Slightly more than one out of every four tickets (26.5%) at BetRivers has been for Chicago winning the North, with handle on that play hovering just shy of 40%.