What vegas is saying about bears
Consensus among handicappers is QB issues will make them a mediocre team once again
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.
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.’’ ✶
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.
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.
Handicapper Dana Lane says Bears receiver Anthony Miller (shown last season against the Lions in Detroit) is a lazy route-runner.