So much has been written about the Chicago Bears this season, and so much of it has been of so little relevance.
The biggest story has been William (The Refrigerator) Perry, and it has been blown way out of proportion. Perry has received more attention than the defensive unit's Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael, Mike Singletary and Gary Fencik combined, even though his overall contribution to the team has been small.
Ernie Accorsi, executive vice president/personnel for the Cleveland Browns, recently was quoted as saying:
"They are a great team, and that's not a word I throw around lightly. There are so many things they can do; they are on the brink of a run of championships. Defensively, they are punishing and force you into mistakes. Offensively, they have the greatest running back who ever lived and a world-class sprinter and are strong enough (on the line) to jam the ball down your throats . . . "
Still, let's not get too carried away over Chicago's 12-0 record. The Bears do have a great, punishing defense, the best since Joe Greene was at the top of his game with Pittsburgh. But Willie Gault is far from the best deep threat in the NFL, and Walter Payton should never be compared to Jim Brown and never has been as brilliant as O.J. Simpson.
I doubt that the Bears are on the verge of any "dynasty." Coach Mike Ditka and management still have much to prove in terms of long-range stability. Payton is 31. Jim McMahon, the quarterback they desperately need to make their offense dangerous, is terribly brittle.
But Accorsi was right when he pointed to the offensive line as the most underrated element in Chicago's new-found dominance. The line has improved to the point where it can make backup quarterback Steve Fuller a winner, and that's saying something. MONDAY NIGHT
Chicago at Miami, the Bears favored by 3 1/2. If this game were being played on the Bears' synthetic (faster) surface, with McMahon ready to start, I would feel a lot better about Chicago.
If the Bears are to be stopped during the regular season, this is the spot. Defensively, Miami will cheat against the run and hope that Fuller has the kind of dreadful night Dave Krieg had for Seattle Monday at San Francisco. But Miami has had a difficult time stopping good running games again this year.
Meanwhile, Dan Marino will not be getting the top-flight pass protection to which he's accustomed. His offensive line is not as good as it was last year, and he still lacks a formidable running back. The Bears will be coming after Marino from the start, and Marino does not stand up to physical abuse very well.
Marino has the arm and the wide receivers, in Mark Duper and Mark Clayton, to beat the Bears' cornerbacks. Miami will score at least 14 points, but that shouldn't be enough. Give the 3 1/2. SUNDAY'S PICKS
I'll take Denver getting 1 1/2 at Pittsburgh and San Francisco giving 4 at Washington.
The Broncos are going through the toughest part of their schedule but share the top spot in the AFC West with the Los Angeles Raiders at 8-4. They defeated San Francisco on a Monday night, 17-16, then wound up in overtime the last two Sundays, beating San Diego and losing to the Raiders.
Denver is a rugged outfit. The development of linebacker Carl Mecklenburg has given new zest to an already strong defense, and the offensive line improves steadily with the running of Sammy Winder and Gerald Willhite. Even quarterback John Elway is making progress.
The Broncos have too much balance for a Pittsburgh squad that lacks adequate talent at quarterback. Take the 1 1/2.
Washington's play since quarterback Joe Theismann was injured has been surprising, to say the least. Replacement Jay Schroeder has put some much-needed zing into the Redskins' passing. He has not, however, been pressured by either the New York Giants or Pittsburgh. The 49ers will pressure him.
The Redskins will be scratching and clawing as they always do in important games at home. But San Francisco has a clear-cut advantage offensively and defensively. Quarterback Joe Montana would have to have a bad day if Washington is to spring an upset. That's not likely. Give the 4. THANKSGIVING TREATS
Sorry, there are none. The New York Jets are favored by 3 at Detroit, and Dallas is a 14-point favorite at home against St. Louis. Forced to choose, I'd go with the Lions, 5-0 at home, and with the Cowboys, who will be out to even the score for their defeat in St. Louis.
A healthy Freeman McNeil at running back would get the Jets' offense going again. His status is uncertain. In the other game, 14 points is a lot to give, even with Dallas on a holiday. THE LINE
Las Vegas' early week numbers had San Diego 10 over Buffalo, the New York Giants 5 over Cleveland, Cincinnati 7 1/2 over Houston, Seattle 8 over Kansas City, the Los Angeles Raiders 7 at Atlanta, the Los Angeles Rams 5 1/2 at New Orleans, Philadelphia 6 1/2 over Minnesota, New England 7 at Indianapolis and Green Bay 6 1/2 over Tampa Bay.