Yes, you heard that right: The Bears are favored to win Sunday against the Packers at Soldier Field.
This marks the first time the Bears have been favored to win a game this season. And against the Packers? The Mighty Cheesemen from the North?
John Fox forever!
All right, we’ll calm down now and acknowledge there’s only one reason Vegas gamblers like the 3-5 Bears’ chances: No Aaron Rodgers.
In a continuing sign that the NFL eats its own, superstar quarterback Rodgers is out — probably for the season — after being crushed by Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr while throwing a pass in a game Oct. 15.
Rodgers had surgery five days later, with 13 screws and two plates used to stabilize his broken collarbone. Ouch. The Packers say he might return at the end of the season, but I’m thinking that’s doubtful and maybe plain stupid. Hurting your epic hero is one thing; mutilating him is another.
At any rate, it matters not for the Bears. They will face backup Brett Hundley, who is to Rodgers — with Rodgers’ 66.3 percent completion rate, 1,385 yards, 13 touchdowns, three interceptions and 103.2 passer rating in six games — what Pee-wee Herman is to Charlton Heston.
Without Rodgers, the Packers are a rudderless ship, an empty bazooka.
Hundley, a third-year player out of UCLA, might be an OK pro quarterback someday. But that day is not here, nor is it visible on the calendar.
In a 30-17 loss Monday to the Lions, Hundley looked overwhelmed and the Packers’ vaunted offense looked like a broken lawn mower. Much of Hundley’s passing yardage came after the Packers were down 30-10, and their last touchdown came on the final play.
Rodgers is so good that he changes everything about the Packers, even their defense. If ol’ Aaron is in, the game is never over. Everybody knows this.
Which brings us to Bears rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Obviously, the Bears being favored means the oddsmakers have a bit of faith in this young kid.
In truth, Trubisky and Hundley are somewhat similar, being young guys abruptly filling in for veterans partway into the season. Hundley was no slouch at UCLA, remember, where he left as the Bruins’ career leader in touchdown passes and total offense.
Of course, he wasn’t the No. 2 overall pick like Trubisky, with all the high hopes that such a selection mandates. Indeed, Hundley was taken by the Packers in the fifth round of the 2015 draft to be the backup to Rodgers’ backup. That was Scott Tolzien, who left after the 2015 season.
Trubisky has been on a short offensive leash — seven passes in one game is all the evidence you need — but Hundley should be on an equally short one. And if Packers coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t keep it simple and easy for him, the mistakes and failed drives will continue.
What we also have seen during Hundley’s two losses is that some of the players who looked really good when Rodgers was directing things have looked average or worse. Call it the no-Aaron effect.
This is an opportunity for the Bears’ toughening defense to tee off on an uncertain quarterback and a hesitant offense. Isn’t that what pass rushers’ dreams are made of?
For Trubisky, the feeling should be one of confidence, of knowing that, yes, I belong here. He’s the better quarterback in this duel — the gamblers think so, anyway — and it’s the first time this season he can claim that, whether from gamblers or anybody else.
Still, let’s not look at this game as a gimme. Sure, the Packers have only five days to rest. And, yes, they have lost all kinds of players to injury. But coaching and being in the NFL count for a lot. Even NFL subs were outstanding college players once. Even Hundley.
But in a season like this, to be favored against the archrival Packers is kind of a victory for the Bears before the game even starts.
Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.