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Tuesday, September 15, 2009
What are the odds?

By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com

How much is Brian Urlacher worth to the Chicago Bears?

Well, you can't measure heart, pride and the value of a decade's worth of experience playing middle linebacker. But if you had to, Urlacher would be worth about a half-point per game, according to one Las Vegas oddsmaker. Not to mention the 50 percent bump another oddsmaker just gave to the Bears' ever-worsening Super Bowl odds.

Jay Kornegay, executive director of the Las Vegas Hilton Race and Sports SuperBook, said he originally had the Steelers at minus-2 in the Bears' home opener this Sunday, but as of Tuesday morning, that line was at minus-2.5.

"Urlacher is a great player and is almost worth half-point to a whole point on a game," Kornegay said.

The consensus outside the Hilton is that the Steelers are 3-point favorites at Soldier Field. Both the MGM Mirage line, which controls the line for 12 Nevada sports books, and the Las Vegas Sports Consultants, a group that provides its expertise to most Nevada sports books, have that line, as do the offshore Web sites.

Mike Seba, senior oddsmaker for the LVSC, said the group moved the Bears from 20-1 to 30-1 to win the Super Bowl, thanks to Urlacher's injury and the team's lackluster performance Sunday night in its 21-15 loss to Green Bay.

"It's a combination of things," Seba said. "Their overall performance, the way [Jay] Cutler looked. The Bears were drawing money before the season based on Cutler. There were high expectations."

The LVSC opened the Bears at 28-1 before last year's Super Bowl. The Hilton opened the Bears' Super Bowl line at 40-1, bumping it up to 50-1 before Cutler was traded. The line went down to 15-1 and is now up a bit to 18-1. Kornegay said the line hasn't moved since Sunday's game. The Hilton has the Bears at 8-1 to win the NFC. The Hilton's lower odds respect the Bears' popularity among gamblers.

"We didn't adjust or raise because we continue to get a lot of action on the Bears," Kornegay said. "No reason to give them better odds when they continue to bet the current posted line."

Seba said he doesn't think the Bears have a chance to win the Super Bowl after Urlacher's injury and Cutler's inauspicious debut.

"Cutler, I don't know what he was doing," Seba said. "If he just sets up and throws, he's fine, but when he's trying to throw on the run, it's a disaster. At least it was the last game. I know the receivers aren't the ones he had in Denver. It's now up to 30[-to-1)], and it will only go up from there. I don't see any chance at all from them."

Seba said the Steelers won't see much change after losing Troy Polamalu for the next three to six weeks because Pittsburgh's defense has more weapons than Chicago's.

"It depends on the team and the player," he said. "Urlacher's skills have diminished, but he is the clear leader of the defense. But they have more problems than that. They have offensive problems, coaching problems."

Everyone's a critic, right?

Seba actually opened the line for the Steelers-Bears game at minus-1 before it moved to minus-3. He thinks it might come down to minus-2 this week.

"The only reason it would come down was if you get Bears money because of the importance of game for them,"

So what are the odds that Cutler would roll his eyes and laugh dismissively upon reading these quotes? Even Vegas wouldn't touch that bet.

Too easy.

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He can be reached at jgreenberg@espnchicago.com.