Bears vs. Saints: Preview, X-Factors, and Predictions
Drew Brees and the 4-2 Saints travel to Chicago to take on Akiem Hicks and the 5-2 Bears.
For the fifth time since 2011, the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints will meet in the regular season. In those five matchups, the Bears are a staggering 0-5. While that can certainly be disheartening, the Saints aren’t seen as nearly the same threat they once were. While Chicago has had problems getting it going on offense, they once again sport a strong defensive unit that nears the top of the league. Can the Bears change their luck? Let’s jump right in.
For the Bears, it’s beginning to sound like a broken record. Two and a half seasons into the Matt Nagy era, the offense continues to lack an identity. If the offense was a stock, it would be plummeting into the ocean. Nick Foles hasn’t been awful, but he’s coming off of his worst game as a Chicago Bear, tossing two interceptions and leading the offense to only three points against the Rams. The offensive line has been the easy target among the fan base, but until the scheme can consistently score points, nobody will be free from criticism.
For the Saints, it’s obvious Drew Brees is on his last legs. He has been serviceable, but his inability to push the ball down the field is glaring. Nobody should take him lightly, but he is far from his prime. However, Brees still has the benefit of Sean Payton calling plays and a dangerous running back in Alvin Kamara. With star receiver Michael Thomas out this Sunday, Kamara will look to be a jack of all trades, with backup Latavius Murray proving he can effectively spell him as well. The Bears defense has their work cut out for them.
|Per Game Stats (Offense)||Bears||Saints|
|Points||19.7 (27th)||30 (7th)|
|Total Yards||308 (29th)||384.5 (11th)|
|Passing Yards||223.9 (25th)||265.7 (9th)|
|Rushing Yards||84.1 (32nd)||118.8 (14th)|
For the Bears, the defense continues to be the backbone of the team. With an ineffective offense, players such as Eddie Jackson, Khalil Mack, and Akiem Hicks have played at an All-Pro level to keep Chicago in every game. The Chuck Pagano led unit even outscored the offense last week, recording a defensive touchdown against the Rams. It can’t be overstated how well they have played and they deserve a ton of credit.
For the Saints, teams have failed to sustain significant success against them on the ground. Sheldon Rankins and Cam Jordan have been big factors in that success, with DeMario Davis continuing his elite play in the middle. The secondary has taken a significant step back, with Janoris Jenkins and Malcolm Jenkins regressing from their former glory. The defense is stingy when it comes to total yards, but they will give up points.
|Per Game Stats (Defense)||Bears||Saints|
|Points||20 (7th)||29 (25th)|
|Total Yards||342 (10th)||328 (7th)|
|Passing Yards||222.3 (7th)||238.7 (17th)|
|Rushing Yards||119.7 (15th)||89.7 (4th)|
Per usual, I am joined by fellow Bears On Tap contributors Kevin Gora and Aalap Desai to give our X-Factors of the week.
Duke: TE Jimmy Graham
“With Allen Robinson almost certainly missing Sunday’s game, the Bears offense needs a safety valve when all else fails. Enter Jimmy Graham. A matchup nightmare who can play in the slot and line up outside, Graham is an ideal candidate for jump ball situations. Against a weaker secondary and an aggressive pass rush, Graham can be the wheels that make this offense go.”
– Duke Coughlin (@ThatPodGuyDuke)
Kevin: Entire Offense Line
“To put it simply, the offensive line has been atrocious this year. At full strength, the unit was below average. Both James Daniels and Cody Whitehair will miss Sunday’s game due to injuries. The starting offensive line this week will most likely be one of the worst all season. IF they can pull a miracle out of their butts and be a formidable line, then the Bears will look to potentially have a competent offense performance. The Bears’ entire offensive success is reliant on the performance of the offensive line. Since Nick Foles hasn’t had the chance to drop back behind a formidable offensive line, we have not been able to see a good Foles performance. Foles needs to have everything around him clicking in order to play well. A strong showing from the offensive line would also give starting running back David Montgomery a chance to show off his talents.”
– Kevin Gora (@kevingora21)
Aalap: Khalil Mack/Robert Quinn
“Drew Brees can’t hurt you if you don’t give him the time to do so. There is no doubt in my mind the Bears won’t be able to stop the run. They haven’t done so all year. The key will be to limit the damage through the air. Drew Brees hasn’t quite been himself in 2020. If Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn can get pressure on him and force some errant throws, the secondary will get some easy picks. The ultimate goal is to fill up the stat sheet with sacks.”
– Aalap Desai (@ADesai410)
Duke: 17-14 Bears (5-2)
“I’ll be blunt: I don’t trust the Bears offense to score points. I do, however, trust the defense to keep the team in every single game. If Roquan Smith and Co. can cause havoc against an inconsistent Saints attack, I expect the offense to do JUST enough to squeak out a victory. Will this strategy work every week? Well, it already hasn’t. Example: Colts and Rams. If it can work until the offense finds its identity, however, I still expect the Bears to be playing in January. Matt Nagy needs to leave his ego at home and get creative. What do we have to lose at this point?”
Kevin: 24-21 Saints (4-3)
“I think the Saints will put together an ugly win, but a win nonetheless. Foles most likely will not have time in the pocket due to the pressure of the Saints defensive front while their defensive backs cover the field. The Saints have been struggling on defense this year, but the Bears have such a lackluster offense that they can make any defense look solid. Expect the Bears defense to pressure the quarterback and cover receivers well, but they may get exposed by Alvin Kamara. Kamara is a complete threat as a runner and a receiver. The Bears’ run defense has been struggling and if the Saints go after Chicago’s weakness, then they may be able to put up multiple scores. No matter who wins this game, it will be an ugly win.”
Aalap: 27-16 Saints (5-2)
“I love the Bears defense. I really do. They continue to keep the team in the game but the offense continually fails them week in and week out. I have zero faith in Matt Nagy’s offense to hold up their end of the bargain. If they keep squandering red-zone opportunities, it’s going to be a long afternoon at Soldier Field. The defense will keep them in the game as long as they can until they finally break late.”
That wraps up the On Tap Sports Net crew’s Week 8 preview. The Bears and Saints kick off at 3:25 PM CT on Sunday, November 1st. The game will be broadcast on FOX. For further analysis and commentary on all things Bears, be sure to tune in to the Bears On Tap podcast.