Colts, but it won’t happen easily

Jan 30, 2007 5:11 AM

The NFL’s dog and pony show that is the Super Bowl finally arrives this Sunday and indeed that phrase is applicable.

The NFC Champion Chicago Bears are the dogs facing some grown up ponies in the AFC Champion Indianapolis Colts. Chicago is an underdog for just the second time this season, the other being at New England in a mid season 17-13 loss. The Pats were favored by 3½.

Since the line was posted minutes after the Colts defeated the Pats, the pointspread has shown a slight fluctuation. Indy was favored by either 6½ points or 7. At 6½ both sides are priced at -110. At 7 the vig has generally been Chicago +7 at -120, whereas the Colts are -7 at EVEN money. The total has held pretty steady at 49, although there have been some sightings at 48½ around town.

The general consensus of opinion holds that the line will ultimately close at 6½ due to a large influx of Chicago money. The Bears are the "popular" team from the nation’s third largest market and thus have a huge following. The line figures to close right on the key number of 7.

For the past six seasons, teams that outrushed their opponent won straight up slightly more than 70 percent of the games and covered the spread over two thirds of the time. But there are always exceptions, often noteworthy ones.

Such is the case here. The Colts were outrushed in 12-of-19 games, yet won 8 of those 12 and covering in 6. The Colts were outrushed in all four losses. Chicago was outrushed in 6-of-18 games, going 5-1 SU and 2-4 ATS.

The Bears had one of the top defenses in the NFL, especially against the run. Indianapolis had the worst rush defense in the league, allowing all 16 regular season foes to run for at least 100 yards. The Colts allowed an average of 173, nearly 30 more than the second worst team.

From a purely statistical standpoint a convincing case can be made that Chicago is both capable of winning straight up and should actually be the favorite!

Yep. Across the board, in most statistical categories, Chicago has the edge in the numbers, especially on defense and special teams.

A major concern for the Bears is whether they will be able to handle the Colts’ "quick snap" offense that gave New England fits in the AFC Championship game. Unable to make the needed defensive substitutions clearly hurt the Patriots and allowed the Colts to overcome a 21-3 deficit. At the same time, the Colts did not score a single first half touchdown in three playoff games.

In Devin Hester, the Bears have a game altering kick returner. He’ll be going against a Colts team that showed very poor tackling on special teams. Hester could be the difference as his role will be vital in establishing favorable field position for the Bears who have the much weaker offense.

Which begs the question of Chicago QB Rex Grossman. When playing well Grossman is clearly capable of leading the Bears to victory. But when he is off his game the Bears could easily be routed by the Colts.

Indy QB Peyton Manning has not been overly sharp in the Playoffs. Yet clearly the Colts have the talent to overcome an off game by Manning much more so than the Bears can overcome perhaps even an ”˜average’ game by Grossman.

Initially the preference was Bears plus the points in Super Bowl XLI based largely on stats that suggest this game should be close. But then a look at the relative strength of the two conferences and the explosiveness of the Colts’ offense led to a flirtation with laying the points in a game that has much more often been one sided than not.

Aside from the Patriots’ three narrow wins, none of the other 12 Super Bowls since the Giants’ 20-19 win over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXV has been by less than 7. Ten of those have been decided by double digits.

Bottom line: The points again matter in the Super Bowl. The Bears are better than generally perceived because of playing in the weaker NFC. Colts have the better QB and more proven kicker. In the end that makes the difference. Indy wins 24-20. BEARS / UNDER.

Thoughts on props

What began as a novelty 20 years ago has become a phenomenon that is eagerly awaited every season. The growth of prop betting has been geometric with several properties offering over one hundred. At the Hilton, for example, 16 full-sized 8½ by 14 inch pages were filled with nothing but props.

A fair amount of creativity goes into the development of these props and considerable research is done in order to offer prop that on the surface appear even. The use of a 20 cent line, or often 30, ensures that the Sports Books will enjoy a healthy profit when all the results are in.

For the most part the props should be looked at as secondary ways to bet the game. Sure, there are pros who scour the city for the best prices and do painstaking research to uncover even the slightest of mathematical, or ”˜expected value’ edges. Kudos to those who have the time, bankroll and resources.

The preference from this vantage point is to play only props priced at even money or plus prices. A secondary strategy is to look for a pair of plus props that have some relationship to one another.

One interesting tandem prop this season involves both punters and whether each will have at least one touchback. The "No" is a solid favorite for both. The projected total punts for both teams in the game is around 8. Thus we need only one touchback from either punter to profit from this wager.

Another prop with appeal this year is whether or not there is a defensive or special teams touchdown. "No" is the favorite. "Yes" is priced at +150. With the Bears having a defense that forces turnovers and a top kick returner in Devin Hester there are several possibilities for this to occur.