11/10/2006 12:00AM

Bears' loss puts focus on Indy


What a difference a week makes.

Heading into last Sunday's NFL slate, the Bears were undefeated and generally regarded as the top team in the league. Many casino sports books had prop bets on whether the Bears would go 16-0, and, although most of the best teams are in the AFC, with just the Bears having any chance for an NFC team to be favored in the Super Bowl, all books with a line on the big game had the AFC -2 1/2.

Well, then the Bears went out and put on a stinker of a performance, losing 31-13 to the underachieving Dolphins, and everything changed. The Bears' prop was dead, and the AFC was raised to a 3 1/2-point favorite at most books. The Palms even went all the way to AFC -5.

The new hot prop is whether the Colts will go undefeated. They are at 6-1 at both the Las Vegas Hilton and the Palms, or you could lay 7 to win 1 if you think they won't go undefeated.

I haven't been perfect so far this season - far from it. I'm 22-21-2 with my bankroll plays as well as in the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest, in which 416 entrants put up $1,500 apiece and make five NFL plays a week. In most weeks, I have three or four plays I really like and then struggle to come up with my final selections. But this week was a little different, perhaps because it has the first full slate of 16 games since week 2.

I like seven games. In the SuperContest, I went with the Titans +7, Steelers -4, Packers +5 1/2, Broncos -9, and Buccaneers +9. All of those lines are the contest lines that were set Tuesday. For my bankroll plays, I will go with the following at lines that were available Friday morning.

Chiefs at Dolphins (pick'em)

I guess the Dolphins' lack of consistency made me leave this off my SuperContest card, but I like this play, too. The Dolphins are obviously too talented to be 2-6, and if Ronnie Brown could run through the Bears' defense, he should have no problem vs. the Chiefs' sieve-like D, especially with middle linebacker Derrick Johnson out with an injured ankle. And the Dolphins have a good enough defense to slow down the Chiefs' revitalized offense.

PLAY: Dolphins for 1 unit.

Ravens at Titans (+7)

After winning two straight and covering three games in a row, the Titans let me down in their 37-7 loss to the Jaguars. But I think that served as a wakeup call that they weren't as good as they were probably beginning to think. The Titans should bounce back here with a better effort against a Baltimore team that is playing above its head and is due for a wake-up call of its own.

PLAY: Titans for 1 unit.

Saints at Steelers (-4 1/2)

Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher and his players are saying all the right things about not giving up on the season and taking it one game at a time. Here's their chance to prove it against an up-and-coming Saints' team that doesn't have the overall talent of the Steelers. I'm counting on Steeler Pride, or else I probably won't be playing them the rest of the year.

PLAY: Steelers for 1 unit.

Packers (+5 1/2) at Vikings

The Vikings were one of the early surprise teams in the NFL, but they've been exposed the past two weeks, losing 31-7 to the Patriots and then 9-3 to the 49ers. Brett Favre and the Packers are finally clicking on offense, and, except for their turnovers, they should have won last week vs. the Bills. They will get a chance to make up for it vs. their divisional rival.

PLAY: Packers for 1 unit.

Broncos (-9 1/2) at Raiders

I rarely lay more than a touchdown on the road in the NFL, and this will be the game I most regret if I lose. The meeting between these two four weeks ago featured the most conservative play-calling I've seen from the Broncos in years, but it didn't matter. Coach Mike Shanahan knew the Raiders couldn't score on his defense, and the Broncos won, 13-3, without really trying. The Broncos are playing better on offense now than they were during their first meeting with Oakland, so with a little more offensive firepower, this should be a rout.

PLAY: Broncos for 1 unit.

Texans (+10) at Jaguars

The Jaguars have had more blowout wins this year, and they could certainly do to the Texans what they did to the Titans last week (which is why I passed on this as a contest play), but I keep thinking back to the Texans' 27-7 win over the Jags three weeks ago in Houston. The Texans believe they can do it again, and if they can keep from getting blown out early and take the crowd out of it, they can keep the game close throughout.

PLAY: Texans for 1 unit.

Buccaneers (+9 1/2) at Panthers

The Buccaneers didn't capitalize on their wins over the Bengals and Eagles in weeks 6 and 7, losing two straight since then, but this is more of a play against the Panthers, who have also underachieved and aren't worthy of being more than a touchdown favorite over anyone. The Panthers tend to eke out victories and are 0-5 against the spread as favorites this year (0-4-1 if you grade them on -8 vs. the Browns five weeks ago), including a non-covering 26-24 win over the Bucs in week 3.

PLAY: Buccaneers for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-3 for a net loss of 1.3 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 22-21-2, including 0-1 on 2-unit plays, for a net loss of 2.2 units.