I've seen this pattern before. In fact, it happened just two weeks ago. During Conference Championship weekend nobody, absolutely nobody, liked the Bears.
The New Orleans Saints were everybody's darling and when they lost, and they lost convincingly, nobody could believe it.
When the line for the Super Bowl opened it favored the Colts by 6 1/2 points and the total was 49. Most Sports Books quickly moved to the line up to 7 points and most have stayed there. The total has seen little movement with most Sports Books around 48 1/2.
The majority of early action has been on the Colts, thus the move in the point spread. If you have followed the corner for the past three seasons, I have often said to get out early, check out the lines, and watch the movement. For those of you who stop by to chat about the games each week, you know I often tell you to go against the moves.
I have heard more comments this week about how Peyton Manning will have the best game of any quarterback ever in Super Bowl history. One comment I heard this week was this will be a blowout of epic proportions, along the lines of the 49ers beat-down of the Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV.
Another comment that proves that most people do not do their homework is "the Bears do not score any points." I know it will surprise the masses to learn that the Bears and Colts each scored 427 points during the regular season, but the Bears did allow 105 less points to its opponents. While the Colts have played one extra playoff game (the Bears were the top seed in the NFC and had a bye during the wild card round) they have only scored 10 more points in the post season.
Since this game will be played in Miami, let's look at both teams' records on an outdoor/grass field. The Colts on grass this year were 4-3 while scoring 176 points and giving up 191, outdoors they were 4-4 scoring 190 and allowing 212. The Bears on grass were 10-3 scoring 340 allowing 191, outdoors they were 9-3 putting up 316 while giving up 168. (You may be asking how can the Bears outdoor/grass record be different, the answer - they played one game in Arizona where they have an indoor grass field, the Colts also played one game outside on turf.)
While none of this adds up to a Colts blow out, you may bring up the quarterbacks. Sure Peyton Manning is one of the best quarterbacks in the game, and it is easy to knock Rex Grossman. If you take a look at the regular season, Manning threw 31 touchdown passes to go with 9 interceptions, while Grossman's ratio was 23-20. But in the playoffs Manning has thrown only 2 TD passes while being picked off 6 times, Grossman has thrown 2 TD passes along with 1 interception.
Here is what I think each team will have to do to win this game.
The Colts will, believe it or not, have to use the ground game to keep the Bears honest; this is something I believe Peyton Manning has learned. On the game winning touchdown drive against the Patriots, Colts RB Joseph Addai ran the ball the last three plays. They cannot turn the ball over; the Bears were the best team at taking the ball away this year. Lastly, they will need to stop the Bears running game. The Colts run defense has been better than expected during the playoffs but was ranked last during the regular season, they will have to keep up their postseason success.
The first key to the Bears winning will be their return game. Return specialist Devin Hester had 3 kickoff and 3 punt returns for touchdowns. Even if he cannot return one for a touchdown, if he is able to get his hands on the ball he can give the Bears great field position. They will also have to win the game of time of possession, if the high powered offense of the Colts is on the sidelines they cannot do any damage. Lastly, they will need to get the lead or at worst keep the Colts within a touchdown. If they allow the Colts to get a 10 point or more lead, catching up will be difficult.
I will take the Bears in this game but I will split my wager on this game. I will put half on the money line which should be around +$2.00 and half on the spread taking 7 points. As far as the total goes I will wait to see if there is a big move and then go against that move. If you want to have some fun with a prop bet take a look at - Will either team score 3 unanswered times? The yes will be favored but if the line drops to -$1.75 or less it will entice me.
I hope you have all had a fun and successful season and remember just because this is the big game, don't go overboard, set a budget and stick to it. Also, if you are going out to party and watch the game, please be careful, use a designated driver, this will ensure having a good time next year also.
Jason Kolenut is the Casino Fandango Race and Sports Book supervisor.