The Chicago Bears are either the best team in the NFL, the luckiest or both, but judge and jury are still out on injuring quarterback Rex Grossman and whether the reincarnated Monsters of the Midway from Windy City can be 16-0.
Don Shula’s 1972 Miami team achieved its final unblemished season in 1972.
The Bears’ jaw-dropping 24-23 comeback against Arizona before a national television audience two Monday nights ago evolved without a single offensive touchdown or Grossman heroics.
Las Vegas bookmakers were quick to take note of how Chicago struggled to win 24-23 and how the Bears never had a chance to cover 11 points, even after defeating four of their previous five opponents.
Chicago opened the season by deep-freezing old rivals Green Bay and Detroit with a combined score of 60-7.
However, the hook caught the Bears in a 19-16 win over Minnesota, a game in which they gave up 3 1/2 points.
They then defeated reigning NFC champion Seattle 37-6 and AFC Buffalo 40-7 before facing the Cardinals.
Chicago got its bye last week and returns to action Sunday at Soldier Field, where the Bears are putting up 16 on San Francisco.
The Hilton tweaked the numbers on its “Will/Will Chicago Be Undefeated for 16 Straight Games?” list. proposition from 10/1 to 1/16 in the “Yes” and from 1/18 to 1/14 in the “No” after the Bears had to bounce back late to beat Arizona.
The odds this week were 12/1 and 1/16.
Veteran Las Vegas sports bettor Lem Banker would say “No” if he thought the numbers were compelling enough.
“I think they’re going to lose a game or two along the way,” Banker said.
“The Bears are good, but I’m not that impressed with Grossman,” said Jeff Sherman, Hilton’s sportsbook supervisor and oddsmaker.
“His passing (against Arizona) wasn’t even close.
“I don’t have the faith in him that I have in other (professional) quarterbacks.”
Sam’s Town Race and Sports Book manager Tony Paonessa never expected much from the former Florida signal-caller, so he’s pretty impressed.
Grossman spent much of his first three pro seasons on the sidelines nursing injuries.
“He’s not a great quarterback, but he’s on the right team,” Paonessa said.
“The Bears have the right combination and they gel well.
“As long as he doesn’t get hurt (again), he’s the man now.”
Banker calls Grossman “a good quarterback.”
“Steve Spurrier (the Gators coach) called him the best he’s ever had,” Banker said.
“If he has problems, it’s because he’s short (6-foot-1) and he’s frail.”
Paonessa thinks the fact that the Bears struggled against the Cardinals and won just shows how good Chicago is.
“Really good teams have one or two games like that, where they win when they shouldn’t,” he said.
A year ago, Las Vegas sportsbooks began to focus on whether or not Indianapolis would go undefeated.
The Colts ended up losing during the regular season and were kicked out early in the playoffs after coach Tony Dungy’s son died just before Christmas.
Indy is currently the only NFL team besides Chicago that is undefeated after six games, but sports stores aren’t rushing to stock the Colts this season.
Sherman points out that a quick look at the calendar shows why.
The road to Indianapolis is crowded, but the Bears have what are often perceived as a few bumps in their path.
The Colts take on once-beaten, high-flying Denver this week and meet the likes of New England, Dallas, Philadelphia and Cincinnati in the future.
Chicago’s main challenges seem to be the Pats and the New York Giants.
The Bears also have a rematch with Minnesota, but close against the Tampa Bay, Detroit and Green Bay Marshmallows, who have a combined 5-14 SU record.
However, Banker warns players to be careful that Chicago doesn’t get upset every week.
“Anyone can beat them,” Banker said.
“The (St. Louis) Rams. The New York teams, both the Giants and the Jets, even Detroit.”