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John J. Raspanti
All eyes will be on rookie quarterback Andre Luck's arm and Brian Urlacher's knee as the Colts play the Bears in Chicago. The Bears are a -9.5 point favorite over the rebuilding Colts, with a total of 43.5 art both 5 Dimes and SBG Global. Interestingly enough, betting percentages at one book favor the Bears by 75% but at Sportsbook.ag, it's fairly balanced action with 51% of the action on the Colts.
With former starter Peyton Manning now playing quarterback for the Broncos, Luck has some big shoes to fill. The Stanford graduate played well in the preseason. He completed 62 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Running back Donald Brown (645 yards last season) will be looking to exploit some holes in the Bear defense. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne (75 catches) and short yardage man Austin Collie (54 catches last year) could find some gaps in the center of the field against the Bears cover-2.
On defense, sack artists Robert Mathis (9.5 last year) and Dwight Feeney (7.5) are trying to master the outside linebacker positions in the 3-4 after the Colts converted from the 4-3 under new coach Chuck Pagnano. Leading tackler Pat Angerer (148 tackles) and stalwart safety Antonio Bethea (139 tackles) will keep the intensity high.
Last year, the Bears season essentially ended in game ten when quarterback Jay Cutler broke his thumb. Cutler was hitting on 58 percent of his passes at the time of the injury. The Bears had won seven of their ten games and looked like a threat to the Packers. Management dumped offensive coordinator Mike Martz and promoted Mike Tice after the season. Their biggest move was picking up wide receiver Brandon Marshall (81 catches last year with the Dolphins). The Bears resigned running back Matt Forte and his 977 yards. The offensive looks capable of big things, but the line is still a concern. Cutler has another big target in rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. Devon Hester could find some space deep. The targets are all in place including Earl Bennett.
The Bears defense is anchored by veterans Urlacher, Julius Peppers, and outside linebacker Lance Briggs. The key is the leadership and ability of Urlacher. Rookie defensive end Shane McClellin will need to be able to apply some pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Cornerback Charles Tillman had a rough preseason. Some are wondering if Tillman, 31, is past his prime. Safety Chris Conte has been limited in practice by a shoulder injury.
The Colts couldn't ask for a better replacement for Peyton Manning. In time, The Colts will rise again. However, for now, they remain a team that is in every way, rebuilding. It's an overhauled roster with a rookie quarterback. There's going to be growing pains. Laying -9.5 points in an NFL game is a tough way to make a living and could be hazardous to your long term betting health. But in this spot, it looks like the only way to go. The Bears are a team ready to win, now. Bears -9.5
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