02/01/2007 12:00AM

Here are some props worth playing


Before 1986, when the Bears last played in the Super Bowl, the scope of proposition bets was pretty much limited to who would win the coin toss and who would score first.

With those Bears a cultural phenomenon with the "Super Bowl Shuffle," bookmakers here in Las Vegas put up a proposition on whether defensive tackle William "the Refrigerator" Perry, who had been used during the regular season in goal-line situations, would score a touchdown. Odds were offered as high as 40-1 and the public ate it up, betting the prop as low as 2-1 at Caesars Palace, where it opened at 20-1. When Perry scored in the fourth quarter of the Bears' 46-10 victory, the books lost big (the books didn't have the foresight to offer a "Perry won't score a TD" price to minimize their risk). However, that opened the floodgates to any and all possibilities with proposition wagers, and they have grown by leaps and bounds the past 21 years.

This year, the Las Vegas Hilton has 16 full 8 1/2 x 14 pages on just about every possible aspect of the game you can imagine (first score, first challenge, longest punt, and on and on) as well as hybrid wagers with Super Bowl results vs. basketball, hockey, golf, and even rugby games taking place the same day.

In the past, I've combined my prop bets with my side and total recommendations in one column on Super Bowl Sunday, but with more and more casinos booking half of their overall handle on these prop bets, it seems only fitting that I devote a full column on prop bets on Saturday with the side and total to be discussed in Sunday's editions. (If it's not already blatantly obvious that I'm taking the Bears +7 due to my love of underdogs and my lack of respect for Peyton Manning and the Colts' run defense, it should become clear by the reasons for most of my prop recommendations.)

Team to receive opening kickoff: This used to be called "who will win the coin toss?" but Nevada gaming regulations require all bets to be decided on the field (though I maintain the coin toss takes place on the field so what's the difference), so it's now worded this way. I won't be betting this one, but if you do, the Hilton has it at the razor-thin vig of -101 on each side as opposed to the standard -110.

* Who will score the first touchdown: This traditionally is the most popular prop bet. The running backs, receivers and quarterbacks get most of the action, though Chicago return specialist Devin Hester might be worth a flyer at 30-1. But I think I found a better way to attack the first touchdown. The Hilton has a prop on over/under 61 1/2 of the jersey number of the first person to score a TD. I like the under. If one of the receivers scores first or a defensive lineman, it's a loser, but I get all the quarterbacks and running backs, Hester and the Indy return man Terence Wilkins, all the linebackers, plus Colts tight end Dallas Clark, who wears No. 44.

* Thomas Jones props: The Bears are certain to try and establish the running game against the Colts' league-worst run defense, so a lot of the props involving the Bears' Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson are tempting. I like Jones to get more than 72 1/2 yards and his longest run to go over 16 yards. The Bears' total rushing yards is set at 124 1/2, and since the Colts allowed 173 yards per game in the regular season, I will take that as well.

* Number of Bears with rushing attempt: The number is set at 3 1/2. The over opened at -150 but was bet to -120 and I like it at that price and will fade the public. It's almost certain that Jones, Benson, and quarterback Rex Grossman will have carries, so I just need a reverse by a receiver, or a misdirection handoff to fullback Jason McKie, or a fake punt by Brad Maynard to get the over.

* Manning rushing yards: Manning is not a running quarterback by any stretch, and that's why this number is so low at 1 1/2 yards, but I like the over for several reasons. The Bears' pass rush will give Manning "happy feet" and he's sure to be running for his life many times. I just need him to get away one time and scramble for positive yardage to win this bet. (A sack, even on a scramble, does not count against rushing yards in the NFL.) Also, Manning knows his legacy could be on the line and he can't help but think he has to do it all, so that could also lead to him taking off, especially in the red zone.

* Manning throws an interception before a touchdown: The odds on this are +160, which looks like a bargain since I would consider it at even-money. The Colts have gone to the running back a lot in the red zone lately (and Manning might be inclined to try and run the ball in himself), so this bet could be live into the second half, and I don't think Manning can go that long against the Bears' pressure defense without getting intercepted.

* Double result halftime/game: This involves picking the first-half winner and overall winner, but I advise taking the tie to the Colts (14-1) and tie to the Bears (18-1). I have made this play the past four years and cashed it two years ago when the Patriots and Eagles were tied 7-7. I'm guaranteed of losing one bet, of course, since both can't win the game, but I'm basically getting at least 6.5-1 that the game is tied at halftime and 8.5-1 if the Bears end up winning.

* Last score will not be a touchdown: This is priced at +165 and I really like those odds. Adam Vinatieri won three Super Bowls for the Patriots with field goals and that could easily be the scenario here, or a team could be ahead and tack on an insurance field goal.