Former Ohio State star quarterback Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears will make his first NFL start in the Buckeye State on Sunday in Cleveland with usual starter Andy Dalton ruled out due to a knee injury – although Matt Nagy being Matt Nagy continues to say that Dalton remains his starter when back healthy (no one believes that). Chicago is a 7-point underdog against the Browns, and one early trend says the Bears won't cover that number.
Fields will be the fifth rookie quarterback to start this season as the fourth will be Houston Texans third-round pick Davis Mills on Thursday night vs. Carolina. The other three rookies were all first-round picks and all started Week 1: No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence of the Jaguars, No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson of the Jets and No. 15 overall pick Mac Jones of the Patriots.
All three of those first-round guys not only lost their first start but failed to cover the spread – in fact, Wilson and Lawrence are both 0-2 straight up and ATS. Jones is 1-1 SU & ATS, getting those victories last week over Wilson's sad-sack Jets. The previous two seasons combined rookie quarterbacks had been 17-5 against the spread in their first start.
Fields, the No. 11 overall pick, will be the first rookie to start under center for Chicago since Mitchell Trubisky in Week 5 of the 2017 season. The Bears were 3.5-point home underdogs that Monday night to the Minnesota Vikings and lost 20-17. Trubisky was 12-for-25 for 128 yards, a touchdown and a critical late interception.
"He was pretty stoic," Nagy said of Fields' reaction upon receiving the news. "He's a guy that has a lot of confidence in himself and I think it rubs off on his teammates."
The offense can only get better under Fields as Chicago is averaging just 17.0 points per game (29th in NFL), 4.1 yards per play (31st) and 5.2 yards per pass attempt (32nd). The Bears are also looking to end a seven-game ATS losing streak as road underdogs of at least three points since the start of 2019.
With Lawrence and Wilson struggling in the early going, Jones has moved up to the +300 favorite for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, while Fields is a +550 second-favorite. Fields is 8-for-15 passing for 70 yards with a pick and has rushed 11 times for 34 yards and a TD.
While Nagy says Dalton will start when healthy again, it's very rare for a first-round rookie to give up that spot once he takes over. In fact, Nagy somewhat hedged on Dalton by saying he wouldn't consider whether he would put Fields back on the bench if he was progressing and winning. Nick Foles, who has been inactive the first two weeks, will be Fields' backup Sunday.
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