Saturday, November 04, 2006

Bears lead Super Bowl contenders

If you had the Chicago Bears among your Super Bowl favorites at the start of the season, raise your hand.

OK, seems like everybody put his hand up. But really, people. The Bears went into the 2006 campaign with a Wild Card-level over/under of 9.5 regular-season victories. Yet here they are at 7-0 straight up, 5-2 against the spread and on top of the Super Bowl odds list at +300. Looks like we need to do a little midseason re-evaluation of the big faves on the futures market.

The Bears did surprisingly well last year to finish 11-5 SU and 9-5-2 ATS, even with rookie Kyle Orton at quarterback for almost the entire season. Rex Grossman came back from his preseason ankle injury to play effectively in the last month; however, many people were critical of coach Lovie Smith for sticking with Grossman as his starting pivot in 2006 instead of handing the job to former Pro-Bowler Brian Griese.

NFL Sports Betting

Forget that. Grossman is on the verge of elite status in the NFL; he’s fourth in the league at the halfway mark with 13 touchdown passes, and his QB rating of 89.6 puts him in the same neighborhood as Drew Brees and Eli Manning. So this is what Grossman can do when he’s healthy. Combine his steady hand on the tiller with one of the best defenses and special teams units in the NFL, and you have your brand new Super Bowl favorites. Did we mention the Bears have the weakest schedule in the NFL this year? The .445 winning percentage their opponents posted in 2005 certainly doesn’t hurt Chicago’s chances.

The Indianapolis Colts (+450) are the only other undefeated team in the league at 7-0 SU and 5-2 ATS. But they’ve taken a back seat to the Bears on the futures market – as they should. Indy might have one of the best quarterbacks of all-time in Peyton Manning, but the Colts’ defense is ranked 28th out of 32 teams, according to the advanced metrics supplied by Football Outsiders. The run defense is especially awful – 167.9 yards allowed per game, the worst in the league.

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Yet the Colts keep winning. Manning leads the nation with an otherworldly 107.9 QB rating, throwing just two picks after seven games. Rookie running back Joseph Addai is proving to be more than just an adequate replacement for Edgerrin James; even better, the tandem between the shifty Addai and the powerful Dominic Rhodes makes both players more valuable. That frees Manning to do his thing. If only he could play both sides of the ball.

Also getting short Super Bowl odds are the New England Patriots (+600) and the New York Giants (+950). The Giants are compelling dark horses; their defense is starting to perform to expectations, and the rest of the tough NFC East is slipping. Could we see Eli Manning defeat his older brother at the Super Bowl? The mind boggles.