Halfway through the NFL season, only one team is unbeaten in the point-spread standings. Chicago, 8-0 atop the NFC Central, is 7-0-1 against the numbers, having been held to a tie as an 8-point favorite at Tampa Oct. 6 when the Bears came from behind to win, 27-19.
The second-best record, in terms of the spread, is shared by Minnesota and Dallas at 6-2. The worst record, 2-6, is held by Atlanta, New Orleans and Green Bay. Miami is not much better, at 2-5-1.
Anyone who has been riding the Bears' profitable bandwagon from the start undoubtedly will stay with them this week as a 7 or 7 1/2-point favorite at Green Bay.
One word of warning: the Bears tried to roll up the score on the Monday night national telecast Oct. 21 when they beat the Packers, 23-7. I don't know if Green Bay, physically, can stay with the Bears for four quarters. But I guarantee that, emotionally, Coach Forrest Gregg's team will be primed for its best effort of the year. Bears Coach Mike Ditka, in the teams' first meeting, was a bad winner. Often, when that happens, there is a heavy price to be paid in the rematch. GAME OF THE WEEK
Miami at New England, the Dolphins favored by 1. I'll take the Patriots.
The New York Jets, rather surprisingly, lead the AFC East (6-2) by one game over these two squads. Miami has been struggling defensively and quarterback Steve Grogan has improved New England's passing attack since taking over from Tony Eason.
New England's running game appears to be designed for a fullback going inside, a role neither Craig James nor Tony Collins can fill adequately. But there has not been anything wrong with the Patriots' offensive line when it is healthy, and the defensive front seems to be improving.
Dolphins Coach Don Shula, meanwhile, must wish he had Bill Arnsparger back as his defensive coordinator. The Dolphins' defense has been deteriorating gradually since Arnsparger went to Louisiana State University. No unit was more overrated last year than the "Killer Bees," who were vulnerable to the run and still are.
Quarterback Dan Marino has missed Mark Duper as his best deep receiver. Now Nat Moore is injured, too, which means Marino must have a tremendous day if Miami is to get the job done. His protection, while still good, is not as heroic as it was in 1984. He has not had a dependable running back.
I am counting on the Patriots to be ready to play their best game at a critical point of the schedule. They rarely have risen to such occasions in the past. Let's see if Coach Raymond Berry makes a difference. OTHER PICKS
I'll also take Philadelphia getting 10 at San Francisco, and Cleveland getting 3 1/2 at Pittsburgh.
San Francisco regrouped in time to beat the Los Angeles Rams Sunday. But, hey, the Rams still don't have a quarterback. They were the worst 7-0 team in memory.
The Eagles do have a passer. His name is Ron Jaworski, and although he never will make the Hall of Fame, he is a lot better than the Rams' Dieter Brock.
Philadelphia is 4-4 following a foolish experiment with Randall Cunningham at quarterback. The Eagles' defense has turned in eight consecutive commendable performances. I can't envision anybody embarrassing them.
Perhaps the 49ers have all the pieces back together again. Consistency has not been their trademark, however. Getting 10 points with a fine defense, I'll pay to find out.
I had not intended to go with the Browns in Pittsburgh until it was confirmed that quarterback Mark Malone suffered a dislocated big toe early in Sunday's loss at Cincinnati and might miss the Steelers' next four games.
This means David Woodley will replace Malone, as he did against the Bengals. This means Chuck Noll's club is in trouble.
Cleveland should start scoring more now that veteran Gary Danielson is back as the starting quarterback in place of Bernie Kosar. Sunday against Washington, Cleveland's defense turned in another solid effort. Pittsburgh is not likely to run too effectively on the Browns. The Browns could run enough against the Steelers to make Danielson more effective than Woodley figures to be. Take the 3 1/2. MONDAY NIGHT
Dallas at St. Louis, the Cowboys favored by 4.
This is it for the Cardinals. They are 3-5 and on the verge of becoming the biggest flop of the season. The number is an invitation to go with Dallas. If you must have action each and every Monday night, accept the invitation. Otherwise, play poker. WASHINGTON AT ATLANTA
The Falcons aren't quite as bad as their 1-7 mark suggests, but they do know how to lose. David Archer probably is a slight improvement over Steve Bartkowski at quarterback. At least he's more mobile, which is an admirable asset for any Falcons thrower.
Washington still is trying to find its passing game, for which nearly every aspect of the offense can be blamed except quarterback Joe Theismann. Give the 6, if you must. THE LINE
Early-week numbers in Las Vegas had Cincinnati favored by 3 1/2 at Buffalo, Denver 2 1/2 at San Diego, Minnesota 3 1/2 over Detroit, Houston 1 over Kansas City, Seattle 1 over the Los Angeles Raiders, the Los Angeles Rams 7 1/2 over New Orleans, the New York Jets 3 1/2 at Indianapolis and the New York Giants 12 1/2 over Tampa Bay.