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Please Observe Posted Super Bowl Speed Limits...By Nelson Lardner

Oh, there've been years where the Super Bowl line was a monumental illustration of the extent to which the madness of crowds can sustain a comical number.

For us, none exceeds Supe XXII, when those oblivious to football fundamentals - y'know, you have to have a functioning running game . . . you have to be able to stop the run . . . simple stuff, like that - somehow established the Denver Broncos as three-point favorites over the Washington Redskins of Joe Gibbs (on his first shift) and Doug Williams. More than a little of this had to do with the fact that certain decisionmakers were convinced that a black quarterback had no shot to get over the top in what figured as a competitive contest.

Schmucks. The 'Skins rope-a-doped Denver through the first quarter, and spotted the Broncs a ten-spot, but Gibbs and friends then set their air-attack plan in full motion, and Williams launched FIVE touchdown passes in the second quarter alone - a splurge that will never be equaled - and coasted to the 42-10 win, cashing the side and the over for those less-than-impressed with the Denver darlings.

A later delight - at a better number - was Supe XXXII the Packer/Bronco tango. In this spot, Denver HAD a running game, the ability to slow the run, and a bulked-up John Elway. The Pack had Brett Favre . . . and a jelly-doughnut-soft defensive interior, "featuring" cheeseburger-fuelled DT Gilbert Brown, exposed by the Bronco's offensive line's sharp cut-blocking techniques. The Pack bent, then broke, and the Broncos prevailed in the second half, as marked underdogs.

It ain't typically that easy, as the dog isn't always quite so lively. Live favorites can get driven to prohibitive levels, making cashing on the stronger side difficult (See: Steelers/Cowboys in XIII . . . Rams/Titans, in XXXIV . . . etc., etc.). And with parity, the dilution of top talent among 32 teams, the day of the bulletproof favorite is arguably past. Dogs have enjoyed the edge in the most recent decade of Big Games versus consensus lines.

Add the fact that hundreds of those holding singed future-book tickets on the Chargers and/or the Ravens will tell you (endlessly!) that the best NFL team of the 2006 season isn't even in Sunday's game . . . and legitimate hope for an entertaining game surfaces, despite the fat Colts/Bears line. When a safety is the linchpin of your rushing defense, and your quarterback has the checkered history in big games Peyton Manning does, the Colts are NOT bulletproof, so long as the Bears take care of the football.

Colts adherents point to Rex Grossman, and giggle - and they may be right. But those who sit back and smugly pronounce that the Super Bowl is "a game for great quarterbacks", in some grave John Facenda intonation, are living in the past. In the last two decades, Williams, Jeff Hostetler, Mark Rypien, Trent Dilfer, and Brad Johnson have quarterbacked Super Bowl winners. None of those guys are Hall of Fame prospects, but they won because they performed soundly in the Big Game - and because they were at the helm of five sound football teams, in their peak years.

I don't make this game a 65% play, either way, ATS . . . which leads us directly to Point Of Emphasis I: Unless you have an overwhelming opinion on this game, it's sheer insanity to get carried away by the moment and risk out-of-whack percentage-of-bankroll on Sunday evening's matchup. They'll be playing more football on Saturdays and Sundays, next fall. Remember all the super situations you isolated, this year? There'll be more. And those moneytrees we all know and love - March Madness, and the NBA Playoffs -- are down the pike. Don't take the big swing simply because it's the last gas station for fifty miles. Put up your loss figure for the season in an attempt to break even? . . . or go double-or-nothing with your '06 winnings? Amateur stuff - or something done by people with more pocket money than they know what to do with.

What MAY justify a measure of further activity on Sunday's festivities are the ever-lengthening lists of proposition wagers thrown out there by multiple major Vegas outposts, as well as stalwart online survivors. Frequently the vig on this stuff is higher than straight 11-10 . . . and the vultures tend to jump on the choicest morsels early, distending the numbers. But with increased, diversified availability (and broad public wrongheadedness regarding isolated situations), this material has become a primary justification for hauling yourself to Sin City for Super Sunday.

Rational bankroll handling demands that those with a pronounced opinion on one side or the other not overextend by using too many props which are singularly reliant on the eventual success of your side.

Say you're a Bear-backer. If you've already made your optimum play on Chicago +7, you might want to consider stuff such as Rex Grossman throwing more than one interception, at modest vig. If Sexy Rexy plays a clean one, your Bear play is going to be in terrific shape. If he throws two or more picks you'll be thrilled you went this way. And if he throws but one - no harm, no foul.

The "over" on Colt PK Adam Vinatieri's points for the day - a consensus 7 1/2 -- is another. This is essentially reliant on AV's notching two field goals, while Peyton Manning has to manage to avoid contracting brainlock. Given the resilient Bear red-zone defense, two FGs are more than likely. Two TDs and two FGs get you there . . . production levels which in no way preclude the Bears from covering +7. And if you somehow lost this play . . . again, your Bear position then figures to wind up finger-lickin' good.

Enjoy the game - it should be a good one. But for maximum enjoyment, your playing should be smart, within rational parameters, and where possible, cleverly self-insured.

Nelson Lardner

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