What ve­gas is say­ing about bears

Con­sen­sus among hand­i­cap­pers is QB is­sues will make them a medi­ocre team once again

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY ROB MIECH @rob­miech

LAS VE­GAS — Hav­ing logged more than 30 years in the sports­book busi­ness, only ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­po­sure or a se­ries of zany events can flus­ter Jay Korne­gay, the vice pres­i­dent of the West­gate Su­perBook.

As in Bears quar­ter­back Mitch Tru­bisky be­com­ing the NFL’s MVP. That was the case one year ago. The Su­perBook had set odds on Tru­bisky win­ning the NFL’s high­est in­di­vid­ual honor at 200-1. Chicago cash poured into the West­gate.

A 12-4 season in 2018 had trig­gered such fi­nan­cial faith. By the time the 2019 season kicked off, those odds had been whit­tled to the low dou­ble dig­its.

‘‘I didn’t lose any sleep over it, but I was re­ally sweat­ing it,’’ Korne­gay says. ‘‘We had so much li­a­bil­ity on Tru­bisky — a very big num­ber.’’

The third-year quar­ter­back from North Carolina strug­gled to pass for 200 yards in a game as the

Bears started 3-1, then lost five of their next six games. Korne­gay’s wor­ries evap­o­rated.

Tru­bisky fin­ished with a yards-per­at­tempt ra­tio of 6.1, last in the league. The Bears ended 8-8.

In early Fe­bru­ary, the Su­perBook made Tru­bisky a 100-1 choice to win the 2020 MVP award. By the mid­dle of July, that fig­ure had bloated to 500-1.

‘‘What a dif­fer­ence a year makes,’’ a re­lieved Korne­gay says.

RIGGED COM­PE­TI­TION?

The Bears’ 2020 vic­tory to­tal is eight around town. The South Point opened that over at a mi­nus price in May, but it has flopped to a mi­nus price ($135 to win $100) on un­der.

The money says the Bears again will be medi­ocre.

Find­ing an 8½ is en­vi­able to those who aim to fade the Bears be­cause an 8-8 cam­paign makes that un­der a win­ning ticket, in­stead of a push with a flat eight. Some off­shore sites have posted 8½, one at a plus un­der price.

‘‘Eight is prob­a­bly the right num­ber,’’ says Bleacher Re­port hand­i­cap­per Kelly Ste­wart, who op­er­ates the pop­u­lar Kelly In Ve­gas proxy ser­vice. ‘‘I think this team will go 8-8 again. I’ll bet them un­der 8½ if I can get a good [price].’’

To win Su­per Bowl LV, cash flow­ing elsewhere at the South Point has bumped the Bears from 30-1 to 60-1. To make the play­offs — the NFL added one more post­sea­son team per con­fer­ence — no is mi­nus-170 and yes is plus-150.

Around Ve­gas, the Pack­ers and Vik­ings are about plus-175 to win the NFC North, the Bears at ap­prox­i­mately plus-375 and the Lions be­tween plus-500 and plus-700.

Vet­eran South Point odd­s­maker Vinny Magli­ulo notes a dis­tinct re­ver­sal of in­ter­est in the Bears com­pared to last sum­mer, partly blam­ing the coro­n­avirus shut­down.

‘‘With many na­tive Chicagoans now re­sid­ing here in south­ern Ne­vada, we typ­i­cally see plenty of sup­port for the Mon­sters of the Mid­way,’’ he says. ‘‘But not so much this year.’’ Says Korne­gay: ‘‘Just noth­ing on the Bears.’’ Down­town at Circa Sports, the Bears are 65-1 to win the cham­pi­onship, mi­nus-10,000 (or risk $100 to win a buck) not to win it and 27-1 to reach the Su­per Bowl.

Quar­ter­back ques­tions cloud the fran­chise. The MVP bet­ting mar­ket doesn’t trust Tru­bisky, but at sev­eral U.S. and dis­tant-land sports­books, he has over­taken off­sea­son ac­qui­si­tion Nick Foles as the fa­vorite to start in Week 1.

Foles is play­ing for his fifth team in six sea­sons. He led the Ea­gles to vic­tory in Su­per Bowl LII and to the late go-ahead points at Sol­dier Field be­fore the Bears’ dou­ble-doink cap­per to their 2018 wild-card defeat.

In a hu­mor­ous move, DraftKings Sports­book set 60-1 odds on 28-year-old Tyler Bray start­ing the opener Sept. 13 at Detroit. Cut three times by the Bears, his lone NFL pass fell in­com­plete for the Chiefs in 2017.

In late May, Ve­gas Stats & In­for­ma­tion Net­work se­nior writer and broad­caster Matt Youmans made a plus-200 DraftKings bet that Tru­bisky will start in Week 1. For the Bears’ of­fen­sive in­ep­ti­tude, Youmans blames Ryan Pace, their gen­eral man­ager since 2015.

‘‘One of the worst GMs in the NFL,’’ Youmans says. ‘‘His rep­u­ta­tion, ba­si­cally, is rid­ing on Tru­bisky. He needs Tru­bisky to win the job in train­ing camp, and I think it could be a rigged com­pe­ti­tion. With no pre­sea­son [games] and an ab­bre­vi­ated camp, it will be easy for them to say, ‘Mitch has been in the sys­tem for two years, and he won the job.’

‘‘The truth is, Pace needs Tru­bisky to start the season and play well.’’

Youmans gives Tru­bisky four to six weeks to prove him­self.

‘‘If they win, great; he keeps the job,’’ he says. ‘‘If they lose, like most of us ex­pect, they’ll go to Foles — who’s proven to be one of the best backup quar­ter­backs in the league — to try to save the season.’’

Tom Barton, a New York-based hand­i­cap­per, says Tru­bisky had bet­ter stay pre­pared if Foles wins the job ‘‘be­cause I think Foles will get hurt. Ei­ther way, there won’t be a point in the season where Bears fans won’t have to root for Tru­bisky.’’

Youmans called the 12-4 season ‘‘a fluke’’ and faded the Bears last year, cap­i­tal­iz­ing on wa­ger­ing against the team that was an NFL­worst 4-12 against the spread.

‘‘And I see no rea­son not to fade the Bears again this year,’’ Youmans says. ‘‘I think the Bears and Lions bat­tle for the di­vi­sion base­ment, and I doubt I’ll change my opin­ion.’’

LOS­ING HICKS HURT

Hand­i­cap­per Dana Lane pegs the Bears at 7-9 and pin­points the home defeat that will clinch a los­ing season — to the Vik­ings on ‘‘Mon­day Night Foot­ball’’ on Nov. 16.

‘‘The fo­cus has been on up­grad­ing the QB po­si­tion, but even with Foles, I’m not sure they’ve done that,’’ Lane says. ‘‘He has never played close to 16 games [in a season], so it’s in­con­ceiv­able that Tru­bisky won’t see sig­nif­i­cant play­ing time.’’

Foles started 10 games with the Ea­gles in 2013, when new Bears of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Bill La­zor coached their quar­ter­backs, and 11 with the Rams two years later. In six other sea­sons, he made 27 to­tal starts.

Lane is bullish on re­ceiver Allen Robin­son but calls An­thony Miller a lazy route-run­ner. He ex­pects for­mer Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet to start. Kmet is 80-1 to win Of­fen­sive Rookie of the Year at the Su­perBook, where Foles is 30-1 for Come­back Player of the Year and Tru­bisky 50-1.

Once again, Lane ex­pects the Bears to rely on de­fense to win games. That’s not a bad tack, con­sid­er­ing only the Ravens have yielded fewer yards per game than the Bears in Matt Nagy’s two sea­sons as coach.

Pressed for a sin­gle Bears wa­ger, Lane taps out­side line­backer Khalil Mack for De­fen­sive Player of the Year (14-1).

Barton hasn’t soured on Tru­bisky, whom Pace nabbed with the sec­ond over­all pick in 2017 af­ter trad­ing four se­lec­tions to the 49ers to move up one slot.

‘‘I don’t think he’ll ever be up­per-ech­e­lon . . . or win a Su­per Bowl,’’ Barton says. ‘‘But that doesn’t mean he can’t be a ser­vice­able and good quar­ter­back.’’

Barton says not enough was made of los­ing de­fen­sive end Akiem Hicks, whose left-el­bow dis­lo­ca­tion in Week 5 shelved him for all but one game the rest of the way.

‘‘When they lost Hicks, Mack went down and went down fast be­cause he needs some­body to clog the mid­dle,’’ Barton says. ‘‘That was dev­as­tat­ing . . . . I think Hicks is go­ing to have a mas­sive year. I like him as de­fen­sive MVP.’’

Barton has bet on Hicks (200-1 at the Su­perBook), Mack and Steel­ers line­backer T.J. Watt (14-1) to win that award. A life­long Bears fan, Barton likes his plus-150 po­si­tion on them to make the play­offs.

In an un­usual season that will have min­i­mal fan at­ten­dance, at best, and typ­i­cal three-point home ad­van­tages will be more like one or 1½ points, ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous

ex­perts, Barton rec­om­mends not get­ting too side­tracked in minu­tiae.

‘‘Do not let in­tan­gi­bles get you off the bet you like,’’ he says. ‘‘Peo­ple al­ways out-think them­selves. The Chiefs are play­ing the Jaguars, but there [might not] be any fans, say, in Kansas City . . . . I don’t think it mat­ters. If Kansas City is the bet you like and it comes in at a num­ber you like, don’t out­think your­self.’’

LOTS OF TOSS-UP GAMES

Ste­wart took note of the South Point’s funky propo­si­tion that pits the Bears against the Pa­tri­ots in a reg­u­lar-season-vic­to­ries matchup — the Pa­tri­ots mi­nus-1 at plus-105, the Bears plus-1 at mi­nus-125.

It ties into her fa­vor­able view of the Pa­tri­ots, a hot topic on a re­cent pod­cast she co­hosts with John Mur­ray, the di­rec­tor of race and sports at the Su­perBook.

She locked in an over bet, at plus-120, on the Pa­tri­ots with a vic­tory to­tal of nine. If she be­lieves the Bears will win fewer than eight games, there’s her lever­age in tap­ping the Pa­tri­ots, giv­ing a vic­tory to the Bears, at plus-105.

On the pod­cast, Mur­ray told Ste­wart, ‘‘Look at these guys opt­ing out.’’

An NFL-high eight Pa­tri­ots have opted out of the 2020 season.

‘‘OK, did [coach] Bill Belichick opt out?’’ Ste­wart re­torted.

‘‘[Mur­ray] was like, ‘OK, smart ass,’’’ Ste­wart says. ‘‘In all se­ri­ous­ness, I have a feel­ing that Belichick is still go­ing to have a great team. I’m very high on [quar­ter­back] Cam New­ton. On so­cial me­dia, he’s shown that he’s ready to go.

‘‘I’ll take the Pa­tri­ots mi­nus one game at that plus price. I think they have a bet­ter chance at win­ning nine games than the Bears do of win­ning eight.’’

Ste­wart bet un­der a year ago on the Bears’ vic­tory to­tal of 9oe.

‘‘Kind of a breeze,’’ she says. ‘‘I didn’t have a crys­tal ball, but I knew they were get­ting too much love in the mar­ket­place.’’

She fore­sees the Bears win­ning seven or eight games. That will be de­ter­mined, she says, in the season fi­nale against the Pack­ers on Jan. 3 at Sol­dier Field.

For the opener against the Lions, the Bears are 1½-point un­der­dogs. Ste­wart leans toward the Lions. She will lean, too, toward the Vik­ings on Dec. 20, when they play host to the Bears.

‘‘There are a lot of toss-up games in the mix for the Bears,’’ she says. ‘‘How good will At­lanta be? I don’t know, but I’m not will­ing to bet the Bears on the road in Week 3 un­less I’m get­ting heavy points.’’

She has cir­cled Thurs­day, Oct. 8, when Tom Brady and the Buc­ca­neers visit Chicago. The Bucs have a vic­tory to­tal of 9oe, mi­nus-135 over, plus-115 un­der (Ste­wart’s play). The Bears will strug­gle with the Colts the pre­vi­ous week, she says, so she ex­pects to get value with the Bears in that game.

Ten days later, the Bears will visit the Pan­thers. Should the Pan­thers get more than a field goal at home, that will en­tice her.

By the time the Bears go to Los An­ge­les to play the Rams on Mon­day, Oct. 26, Ste­wart thinks the na­tion will wit­ness Nagy’s quar­ter­back co­nun­drum.

‘‘He’ll have to have made a de­ci­sion by then,’’ she says. ‘‘Will he be happy with Tru­bisky, or will he go with Nick Foles? Right there is an in­ter­est­ing di­chotomy with that game.’’ ✶

GETTY IM­AGES

Mitch Tru­bisky (left) and Nick Foles will batte for the Bears’ quar­ter­back job. But one Las Ve­gas in­sider said he thinks it might be ‘‘a rigged com­pe­ti­tion’’ be­cause GM Ryan Pace’s rep­u­ta­tion de­pends on Tru­bisky’s suc­cess.

Jay Korne­gay

DY­LAN BUELL/GETTY IM­AGES

Bears out­side line­backer Khalil Mack is a 14-1 choice to win NFL De­fen­sive Player of the Year at the West­gate Su­perBook in Las Ve­gas.

REY DEL RIO/GETTY IM­AGES

Hand­i­cap­per Dana Lane says Bears re­ceiver An­thony Miller (shown last season against the Lions in Detroit) is a lazy route-run­ner.

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