Chicago Bears (0-0) +9.5, 44 O/U at Indianapolis Colts (0-0) -9.5, 44 O/U, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind., 8:15 PM Eastern, Sunday
by Badger of Predictem.com
The question every Indianapolis Colts fan will be asking all week is whether or not quarterback Peyton Mannings injured knee will be healthy enough to allow him to help the team celebrate the opening of their brand new Lucas Oil Stadium in front of a national audience when they host the Chicago Bears in NBCs Sunday Night Football opener.
Manning was reactivated last week and is officially listed as questionable, even though he himself has told reporters he “hopes to be ready.” If Manning is ready, theres little doubt that the Colts should be able to deal with the same Bears team that they defeated in Super Bowl 41 two years ago.
Meanwhile the Bears have given their own starting quarterback job to third-year man Kyle Orton. Orton, who won the job more by default than anything else, takes over for the grossly inconsistent Rex Grossman as he hopes to help the Bears rebound from a terrible 7-9 season (7-9 ATS) in 2007.
Oddsmakers opened the game with the Colts as 9.5-point favorites, and that number has held steady despite the questions about Mannings knee. The over/under total opened at 44, although some offshore sportsbooks have moved it up slightly to 44.5. The Colts are also listed as -500 favorites on the moneyline, while the Bears are listed as +420 underdogs.
The Colts suffered several devastating injuries in 2007, but still managed to go 13-3 (9-7 ATS) even without the likes of receiver Marvin Harrison and pass rusher Dwight Freeney. Without Harrison the Colts were still 3rd in the NFL in points per game (28.1), 5th in total offense (358.7 ypg) and 1st overall in third down conversions (49.3 percent).
With Harrison, Reggie Wayne (1,510 yds., 10 TD) and tight end Dallas Clark (11 TD), the Colts have a receiving core that is second to none. Running back Joseph Addai (1,072 yds., 12 TD) will also have the luxury of adding rookie Mike Hart (Michigan) into the mix to take some of the load off in the running game. The Colts will have to deal with the loss of center Jeff Saturday, who is nursing a bad knee and isnt expected back till late October at the earliest.
Most of the Bears problems in 07 started and ended with the offense. With Grossman regressing back to the interception machine he was two years ago, the Bears struggled mightily to mount much of an attack at all (27th in total yards - 293.2), especially on the ground (league worst 3.14 yards per rush). And although they drafted running back Matt Forte to try and revamp the running game, their first overall pick in this years draft, left tackle Chris Williams, is already out indefinitely with back problems. With Marty Booker and Brandon Llyod as their top two receivers, its hard to imagine the passing game getting much better either even if they use Devin Hester fulltime as a wideout.
Defensively the Colts were top-five in just about every category, including points allowed (16.4 - 1st), total yards per game (279.7 - 3rd), yards per play (4.57 - 2nd) and passing yards per attempt (5.55 - 2nd). And lets not forget that they did it without Freeney, perhaps the fastest pass rusher off the edge in the NFL.
The Bears defensive unit didnt play all that bad last season, but when you have to cover for one of the leagues worst offenses you eventually wear down. They did allow an unusually large amount of yards per game (354.7 - 28th), but they stiffened when they needed too as they were just 16th in points allowed at 21.8 per game. There is hope, as the Bears resigned linebacker Lance Briggs in the offseason and will welcome back safety Mike Brown and corner Nathan Vasher who both missed significant time due to injury in 07.
Not counting the Colts victory over the Bears in the Super Bowl, these two havent met since the 2005 season (a 24-17 Bears victory). In fact, the Bears have owned this rivalry as they are 8-2 SU (5-4-1 ATS) dating back to the 1985 season.
Somehow the Bears seem to defy oddsmakers, as they are 12-11 ATS on the road in the past three seasons and are 11-8 ATS as underdogs during that same three-year span. The Colts dont seem to perform up to expectations either, as they are 43-11 straight up the past three seasons, but just 30-24 ATS in those same three seasons including a 5-4 ATS mark at home in 07.
The one betting trend to watch for in this game is the under, as the Colts have come in under the total in seven of their last 10 games in September. With Manning and the offense a little rusty, the Colts defense back to full strength and the Bears inept offense, that number could easily grow to eight in their last 11 games.
Badgers Pick: As lopsided as this looks on paper, I just cant bring myself to take the Colts because 9.5 points is too much to give in the NFL in my opinion. Especially since Manning is just one sack away from standing on the sideline with an ice bag on his knee. Im going to go the safe route here and take the under, as I just dont see the Bears mounting much of an attack on the Colts defense. Take the under of 44.