Colts figured, but ‘Da Bears!’

Jan 30, 2007 1:40 AM

Do Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy finally get their rings or will the new Monsters of the Midway spoil the Colts’ party?

Back in August, Indianapolis was the 4/1 favorite to win the Super Bowl. The Bears were 22/1, behind five NFC teams (Seahawks, Panthers, Giants, Cowboys and Bucs).

For the second year in a row, the No. 1 NFC seed is an underdog to the weaker-seeded AFC club (Indy was a No. 3 seed). The Steelers were the No. 6 seed going into the playoffs a year ago and were favored in a 21-10 victory over the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

That shows how superior the best teams in the AFC are compared to the top NFC seeds. The AFC dominated the regular season matchups as well. It appears the pendulum has swung. During the 1980s and much of the 90s, the NFC won 15-of-16 Super Bowls, including 13 in a row! That changed in 1998 when Denver upset Green Bay, 31-24. The AFC has won 7-of-9 since.

The Colts have the high profile passing offense with QB Peyton Manning throwing mostly to TE Dallas Clark and WRs Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. The betting public loves exciting offenses, but it’s the Colts defense that has shocked the world in the postseason. The worst run defense in the league during the regular season, with every opponent having a 100-yard rusher, Indy’s defense has been dominant against the run.

The Colts will have to do it one more game as the Bears were 15th in rushing (120 yards per contest) behind RBs Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson. The Bears also hope to continue a Super Bowl trend: The underdog is 4-1 ATS the last five Super Bowls, winning twice. Here’s a look at what to expect this weekend as America’s unofficial national holiday, the Super Bowl, kicks off.

WHAT BEARS WANT

Run, play tough D. Old school football right out of the George Halas playbook. No one has been able to run the ball much on the Colts since the regular season ended, but Chicago will try. Ball control means tiring out the Colts small defensive front and keeping the football out of Manning’s hands. Chicago is tops in the playoffs, averaging 158 rush yards.

The other reason, of course, is no one knows which Grossman will show up. Rex had 23 TDs, 20 picks and some frighteningly awful performances. He was the antithesis of consistency. The Bears ended up blowing out the Saints in the NFC title game, but settled for three field goals to start the game You can’t waste TD opportunities in the red zone when playing the Colts. On the other hand, the Saints offense was No. 1 in the league and was shut down.

The Bears have a ball-hawking defense that led the league in forced turnovers. More good news is that they have the NFL’s No. 12 rated pass defense. The bad news? The Patriots were No. 13 and Manning shredded them for 349 yards in the AFC title game. Chicago is 7-1 SU, 5-3 ATS away from home and 2-0 ATS as a dog. The over is a whopping 13-4-1.

WHAT COLTS WANT

Score points early. This immensely talented offense is so talented can score anywhere and anytime, even if they get way behind. They trailed the Patriots 21-3, but tied it midway through the third quarter. Scoring early could alter the Bears game plan, putting pressure on the inexperienced Grossman to do more. That would also take pressure off the Colts potentially soft run defense.

FACTORS:

Colts special teams on kicks. The league’s worst unit struggled badly the last game, allowing the Patriots kick returns of 80 and 41 yards. The Bears have the NFL’s best kick return specialist in Devon Hester.

Indy’s built for indoors: The Colts are 10-0 SU/7-3 ATS at the RCA Dome. On the road, 5-4 SU/4-5 ATS. The over is 19-12 (61.3 percent) in last 31 Super Bowls.

All of which makes this a terrific cat-and-mouse game. Enjoy!