10/12/2006 11:00PM

Red-hot Bears 20-1 to go 16-0


The Chicago Bears' bandwagon has been filling up quickly. They are 5-0 and lead the league in scoring offense and scoring defense. Inevitably, the question has already come up: Can they go 16-0?

On Thursday afternoon, the Palms was the first sports book in Las Vegas to put a price on it - 20-1.

Last year, odds on whether the Colts would go 16-0 didn't go up here until they were 8-0 and had already gotten past a tough matchup with the Patriots. So why did Palms race and sports book director Richie Baccellieri put the prop up now?

"The big thing right now is the Bears, so why not?" said Baccellieri. "Actually, I was having lunch with Jimmy Vaccaro and he suggested it, and I said it was too early. We had lunch again [Thursday] and he brought it up again, so I figured it was the right time."

Vaccaro is Leroy's marketing director and former bookmaker.

Baccellieri said the Bears' relatively easy schedule - only three of their remaining games are against teams that are currently over .500 - didn't have anything to do with his decision to put the prop up.

"Basically, I did it because Jimmy said it was a good idea," said Baccellieri. "Jimmy is like E.F. Hutton - when Jimmy talks, people listen - if they're smart. And he's right. We should get great two-way action on it, and it's fun. We want to get people in here and make it fun, that's what it's all about."

What made the Palms prop more interesting is that Baccellieri put it up without a vig, which means you could have taken 20-1 on the Bears going undefeated, or laid 20 to win 1 that they wouldn't.

"We wanted the bettors to let us know what the favorite should be," Baccellieri said.

The first big bet came on "yes" for the the Bears to do it, and Baccellieri lowered the price to 19-1, with the "no" still at -2000. That is still a ridiculously low hold percentage, since most matchups with a -2000 favorite would have the dog priced at 14-1 or lower.

Rundown of my NFL plays this week

Being a native Chicagoan, I'm as thrilled as anyone with the Bears' fast start, but that doesn't mean I won't bet against them when I think there's value on the other side. But before I get to this week's Bears game and my other official bankroll plays, here's a rundown of other plays I've already made and those I plan to make if the lines move in my favor.

Early bets: Even though I had a really great day last Sunday, when the lines for this week's games went up that night, I didn't get too involved with NFL plays, making just two in an effort to set up middles. I took the Broncos -15 vs. the Raiders. That didn't pan out, so I'll just let that ride. The Stratosphere also had the Bears -8 1/2 vs. the Cardinals, and I bought the half-point to make it -8, because I knew it would steam into double-digits. Just like last week, when I bet the Patriots -9 early and bet back more on the Dolphins +10, I'm going to do the same thing this week with the Cardinals. A 10-point margin of victory by the Bears would be ideal.

Totals: I'm looking to go under 45 points in the Rams-Seahawks game, under 47 in the Eagles-Saints, and over 33 1/2 in the Panthers-Ravens. I already bet over 38 in the Bears-Cardinals game (I missed the earlier 37 and 37 1/2s that were available) and might come back with a lesser bet on under 41 if the total continues to steam upward by game time Monday.

Teasers and parlays: Six-point teaser plays this week include the Lions +7 vs. the Bills, Dolphins +8 1/2 vs. the Jets, and Steelers -1 vs. the Chiefs. Just like last week, when I hit my five-teamer with my five official bankroll plays, I'll do the same again after finding the best off-the-board or parlay cards lines and odds.

Other plays I'm leaning toward: I'll probably end up with tickets on the Bengals -5 1/2 vs. the Buccaneers, Titans +10 1/2 vs. the Redskins (with possible money-line play on Titans at 4-1 or higher), and Texans +13 vs. the Cowboys. My preferences on all NFL games this weekend are posted at .

Bears at Cardinals (+11)

Oddsmakers have to continue inflating the odds against the Bears to get balanced action on the other side, and I just think this is too high of a number. Yes, the Bears are playing great. Yes, Matt Leinart is in for a major test. But I have to take the double-digit home underdog on Monday Night Football. Personally, I think the Cards shouldn't even bother running the ball; just pass on every down, since any run will likely be a wasted play. Even with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald out, the Cardinals have talented enough receivers in Anquan Boldin, Bryant Johnson, and Troy Edwards to make plays downfield. The home crowd on MNF won't hurt. This is perhaps the Cardinals' last chance to make something of their season.

PLAY: Cardinals for 1 unit.

Bills at Lions (+1)

Obviously I'm hoping this is the week of the home dog, since I'm on one here and in the next game, too. The Lions are 0-5, but they were in position to win four of those games, including last week's collapse vs. the Vikings. If the Lions can put forth anything like the effort they gave at home in Week 1 vs. the Seahawks, they should get off the schneid.

PLAY: Lions for 1 unit.

Seahawks at Rams (+3)

Except for their first half vs. the Giants in Week 3, the Seahawks have looked ordinary this year. The Rams, on the other hand, are playing well under new coach Scott Linehan, with an improved defense and a more balanced offense. As in years' past, the Seahawks have struggled on the road and haven't scored a touchdown in two road games. They're also 1-6 under Mike Holmgren in their last seven games after bye weeks. Before last season, the Rams had the Seahawks' number and should get the job done against their division rival as they try to take control of the division.

PLAY: Rams for 1 unit.

Giants at Falcons (-3)

The Falcons aren't getting the credit they deserve for their 3-1 start. Their only loss came in Week 3, when they were the Saints' first opponent in the Superdome since the Hurricane Katrina disaster. The Falcons' ground game should have a field day against the Giants, and the defense will pose problems for Eli Manning and Co. and cause turnovers.

PLAY: Falcons for 1 unit.

Panthers (+3) at Ravens

It's hard to believe a 5-foot-9-inch, 185-pound receiver can be the most valuable player in the NFL, but I want to change my 2005 vote to Steve Smith after seeing what his team does with and without him. The Panthers have won three straight since he returned to the lineup, and the whole team has elevated its play. I'm not sure the right team is favored here.

PLAY: Panthers for 1 unit.

Last week: 5-0-1 for a net profit of 5 units. NFL season record: 11-13-2 for a net loss of 3.3 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1).