Chicago’s Bears are either the NFL’s best team, luckiest or both, but judge and jury still are out on oft-injured quarterback Rex Grossman and whether the Windy City’s reincarnated Monsters of the Midway can go 16-0.
Don Shula’s 1972 Miami squad achieved the last unblemished season in 1972.
The Bears’ amazing 24-23 comeback against Arizona before a national television audience two Monday nights ago evolved without a single offensive score or Grossman heroic.
Las Vegas bookmakers took quick note of how Chicago struggled to gain a 24-23 win and how the Bears never had a chance of covering 11 points, even after blowing out four of their previous five opponents.
Chicago opened the season by deep-freezing old rivals Green Bay and Detroit by a combined 60-7 score.
The hook got the Bears in a 19-16 triumph over Minnesota, though, a game in which they gave 3 1/2 points.
They then bumped off reigning NFC champ Seattle 37-6 and the AFC’s Buffalo 40-7 before running up against the Cardinals.
Chicago had its bye last week and returns to action Sunday at Soldier Field, where the Bears are laying 16 to San Francisco.
The Hilton altered numbers on its “Will/Won’t Chicago Go Undefeated for 16 Straight Games?” proposition from 10/1 to 16/1 on the “Yes” and 1/18 to 1/14 on the “No” after the Bears had to rally late to beat Arizona.
Odds this week were 12/1 and 1/16.
Veteran Las Vegas sports bettor Lem Banker would take the “No” — if he considered the numbers enticing enough.
“I think they’ll lose a game or two along the way,” Banker declared.
“The Bears are good, but I’m not that struck by Grossman,” declared Hilton oddsmaker and bet shop supervisor Jeff Sherman.
“His passes (against Arizona) weren’t even close.
“I don’t have the faith in him I do other (pro) quarterbacks.”
Sam’s Town Race and Sports Book manager Tony Paonessa never expected much from the former Florida signal caller, so he’s fairly impressed.
Grossman spent much of his first three pro seasons on the sidelines nursing injuries.
“He’s not a great quarterback, but he’s with the right team,” Paonessa said.
“The Bears have the right mix and gel well.
“As long as he doesn’t get hurt (again), he’s the guy now.”
Banker calls Grossman “a good quarterback.”
“Steve Spurrier (the Gators’ coach) called him the best he has been around,” Banker said.
“If he has problems, it’s that he’s short (6-foot-1) and he’s fragile.”
Paonessa believes the fact the Bears struggled against the Cardinals, yet won, only shows how good Chicago is.
“Really good teams have a game or two like that, where they win when they shouldn’t have,” he said.
A year ago, Vegas bet shops began zeroing in on whether or not Indianapolis would go unbeaten.
The Colts ended up losing during the regular season and being ousted early in the playoffs after Coach Tony Dungy’s son died just before Christmas.
Indy currently is the NFL’s only team besides Chicago to be undefeated after six games, but sports stores aren’t rushing to put up props on the Colts this season.
Sherman notes a quick glance at the schedule shows why.
Indianapolis’ path is cluttered, but the Bears have what’s frequently perceived as only a few obstacles in their way.
The Colts face high-flying, once-beaten Denver this week and meet the likes of New England, Dallas, Philadelphia and Cincinnati down the road.
Chicago’s major challenges figure to be the Pats and New York Giants.
The Bears also have a rematch with Minnesota, but close out against marshmallows Tampa Bay, Detroit and Green Bay, who are a combined 5-14 SU.
Banker cautions players to be wary of Chicago being upset each and every week, however.
“Anybody can beat ’em,” Banker said.
“The (St. Louis) Rams. the New York teams — both the Giants and Jets — even Detroit.”