2006 Season NFL Football Past Picks
February 04, 2007
This pick was released to clients on July 31, 2012 at 1:16AM ET.
Indianapolis at Chicago
Sunday 02/04 06:20 PM Eastern
4 units on Chicago +7 (-110) (risk 4 to return 7.64) RESULT: LOSS
Your pick in this game should come down to your personal answer to one very important question. Do you believe history will repeat itself? If you do, you should love the Bears. If not, you can pretty easily take the Colts. What do we mean by history repeating itself? Quite simply we mean that defense (and to a lesser extent rushing) wins championships. Yes, it is trite. And it isn't always true. But when it comes to the Super Bowl, it is true almost without exception. If you don't believe that statement, by the end of reading this you will. And once you believe it, if you believe that history repeats, you have to take the Bears here.
We know, your gut says Indy rolls in this game. This has got to be Manning's year, right? He and the Colts finally got over on their arch nemesis - the New England Patriots. Manning played a spectacular final 33 minutes vs. the Patriots. He can eat up any defense out there, right? Well not so fast. Let's look at what history tells us about this matchup. What we have here is a great offensive team in Indianapolis with a Pro Bowl QB who is a lock for the Hall of Fame. Their passing game is surgical. The Colts offense scored 26.7 points per game in the regular season, behind only the Chargers and - you guessed it - the Bears. But there defense isn't so hot. In fact, it's ice cold, ranked 23rd overall in points allowed. A 23 defensive ranking in the Super Bowl is about as bad as it has ever gotten. In contrast, Chicago comes in with the third ranked defense in points allowed. So how have defenses like that of Indy's performed in the Super Bowl? Consider that in the modern era, since 1985 - over 20 years of Super Bowls, no team with a defense ranked worse than 8th has won! Let me restate that since it is so important here. No NFL team with a defense ranked outside of the top 25% has won a Super Bowl in the past 21 years!
Indianapolis isn't even in the top half and is a couple of spots away from being in the bottom quarter yet they are a touchdown favorite in this game. The worst defense to ever win a Super Bowl was ranked 19th in the league. The Colts biggest problem is, as we all know, stopping the run. They were the first team in NFL history to allow 100+ yards in all regular season games. They allowed 5.3 yards per rush during the regular season. The worst team in this category to win a Super Bowl in the last seven years gave up 3.9 yards per rush. Only five of the last 18 Super Bowl teams gave up over 4.0 per carry. Yes, Indy's run defense has improved in the playoffs but we can't ignore 5.3 over the course of the entire season. That's about as bad as you can get for a Super Bowl team. And, as you will see, we think the Bears will have more rushing success than did KC, Baltimore or New England. The Bears have a very potent running game with one back (Thomas Jones) having amassed 1399 yards and the other (Cedric Benson) gaining another 752 on top.
But you ask how a team with Rex Grossman at the helm can win a Super Bowl? Consider the obscure QBs who have won Super Bowls including Mark Rypien, Brad Johnson, Jim McMahon, Doug Williams and Trent Dilfer. Despite the criticism that Grossman has received, the Bears have gone 15-3 with him taking snaps. Also, the expectation should be that he'll have a solid game. In his 18 starts he has thrown 0 or 1 interception in 12 of them - 67%. He had a bad run mid-season but he has seemingly put that behind him.
Scared of Manning killing you? Consider the truly great QBs who have lost in the big game: Johnny Unitas, John Elway (x3), Fran Tarkenton (x3), Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Roger Staubach (2x), Len Dawson, John Theismann, Jim Kelly (4x) Bob Griese, Boomer Essiasson. The fact remains, flashy QB play is secondary compared to defense and running in the big game. This has been proven time and time again. Consider the most recent glaring example. In 2002-2003 the NFL's #1 offense, Oakland was instilled as a favorite vs. the #1 defense in Tampa Bay. Much like Indy's offense here, no one thought Oakland's could be stopped. Tampa won 48-21. And Manning really hasn't been playing so great of late. He had a very good second half against a tired New England defense but his QB rating is just 66.8 in the playoffs. Outside of one half of football, he has been very mediocre in January. His offensive line is showing some signs of cracking in the playoffs too. While giving up just 15 sacks in the regular season, they have allowed five in the playoffs. If the Bears can get to Manning and force a couple of turnovers, it will be extremely hard for Indianapolis to notch a blowout win in this game like many expect. The Bears are 14-2 straight-up the past two seasons vs. good passing teams that complete 61% of their passes!
We believe there is more pressure in this game on Manning than Grossman. Think about it. If he loses as a touchdown favorite, all that was gained by his victory over New England is lost. Will he ever get a shot again? He MUST win this game. That's a lot of pressure. Grossman in contrast is everyone's whipping boy. He has nothing to lose here. He is expected to lose the game. He should be loser than Manning. The intangibles favor Chicago in this game as well. They have a HUGE special teams advantage - a part of the game often overlooked. Devon Hester should give Chicago very good field position throughout the game and he has the potential to turn the game around. He returned one for a TD vs. New Orleans only to have it called back by penalty.
The site also benefits Chicago more than Indianapolis. The Colts were unstoppable at home this year (10-0) but on the road they were anything but. They have lost four of their last five road games. Their team was built for the quick home turf. On grass, they aren't nearly as potent a team. Their five games on natural turf this year resulted in a 2-3 SU and ATS mark - not great for a touchdown favorite. The Colts gave up 27.4 ppg and 378 yards per game away from home during the regular season. They have been outscored overall outside of the Dome this year! The Bears, in contrast, won all but one game away from Soldier Field this year and that was a four point loss to New England.
The bottom line here, as we stated at the outset, is that if history repeats itself, the Bears cover the spread. The Super Bowl has always been about defense and running, not passing. In fact, Super Bowl teams with more net passing yards than their opponents have lost 60% of the time straight up. Yet here we get a full touchdown on the team with the better running game and better defense. Teams that rush for more yards in the Super Bowl are 33-7 SU & 29-8-3 ATS. The Bears this year gave up 255 points as compared to Indianapolis' 360 - a 105 point difference. No NFL Super Bowl team with a difference of 50+ points in this category has ever lost the Super Bowl! They are 12-0 straight up and here we get the better defensive team plus seven points!
The Colts, despite only having four double-digit wins all year, are favored by seven points in this game against a 15-win team. It's too much. Especially if Chicago follows the very simple two-step Wunderdog Recipe For Beating the Colts. I hope Lovie Smith is listening. Here goes:
Step one: RUN THE BALL!
Step two: DON'T ABANDON THE RUN!
Yes, it sounds simple but three very good coaches have forgotten this simple recipe. In Indy's 16 regular season games, every one of their opponents ran the ball at least 23 times. They all gained over 100 yards. Four beat the Colts and over half of them won ATS. So you would think Indy's playoff opponents would know the recipe? Well inexplicably they all rush the ball less than those 16 prior Indy opponents! Kansas City ran it 17 times and Baltimore 20 times. New England, up by 21 points, also for some unknown reason abandons the run and ends up with just 24 carries. No wonder Indy is in Miami on Super Bowl Sunday! Well here's where one of Chicago's biggest weakness could be a strength. No one on the Chicago coaching staff wants to put the game in Rex Grossman's hands. If he has half a brain, Lovie Smith runs the ball 35-40 times here. It's possible as the Bears averaged 31.5 rushes per game this year. Indy's ATS record in games where an opponent ran 30+ times? 3-7-1.
If the Bears run the ball, and play solid defense, they very likely cover this lofty number. History also overwhelmingly favors them to win the game outright so consider a small moneyline play on the Bears at +210. Good luck on Super Bowl Sunday!