by Bryan Dietzler
The 3-2 Chicago Bears will play host to the 5-1 New Orleans Saints this Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field. The Bears will be without some key starters, as will the Saints so this game will be more than interesting. It’s going to be a case of whoever has the best backups when it comes to who will win this game.
The biggest thing for the Bears will be getting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky back. At least all signs point to his coming back for this game. Akiem Hicks will be out for this game and he is the one that helps stop the run in the middle. Will Chicago be able to compensate for Hicks’ absence or will they falter as they did against the Oakland Raiders in London.
This is going to be a tough task for the Bears but they can win this.
Let’s take a look at the Bears and the Saints offenses and defenses and how they stack up. Who has the advantage? Who could win this game?
Bears on Offense
The Chicago Bears offense has been hampered by injuries and ineffective play for a better part of this still-young season. Gone is offensive guard Kyle Long, who was placed on IR with a hip injury this week. The running game has been less than stellar and the offensive line has a lot to do with that. It’s difficult to see this unit coming together during the next few games and forming one cohesive unit (with new talent being forced in there) but anything is possible.
Chicago’s offense, overall, is ranked poorly. They are 27th in points averaging 17.4 points per game. Their overall defense is ranked 30th in the NFL as they are averaging 266 yards per game.
The rushing attack, as mentioned, has been anemic at best averaging just 80.6 yards per game which is good for 26th in the league. David Montgomery and company haven’t been able to find any holes to move through and get the necessary yardage. Something has to give for the Bears to have success.
They need to get that rushing attack going.
The passing attack has been poor as well and the change in quarterbacks hasn’t helped. The Bears are currently ranked 30th in the league in passing for an average of 185.4 yards per game. That won’t win you many games.
The Bears must do better.
Perhaps they will now that Trubisky appears to be back and ready to go. Hopefully, he has healed up well enough from the shoulder injury that he can utilize the weapons around him and gain some yards. If he’s feeling right, I would venture to say that Trubisky could have a big game this Sunday.
The Saints have the league’s 11th rated scoring defense allowing teams to score about 20.3 points per game. That’s a pretty tight defense. They are allowing a total of 340.5 yards per game, which is 10th. The Bears get nowhere near that on offense. New Orleans is 11th in passing yards allowing 237.7 yards per game. There may be a little room for the Bears to gain some yards through the air, especially if Trubisky is back and ready to go.
Finally, the Saints are 14th in rushing yards allowed, giving up 102.8 yards per game. Hopefully, the Bears can jump-start their rushing attack and move the ball to take some pressure off the quarterback.
If the Bears need to have a breakout game on offense, they need it in this game because keeping up with the Saints is going to be difficult, due to their powerful offense. But, we did see the Bears catch up against the Raiders a couple of weeks ago so we know that they have it in them.
Bears on Defense
Chicago’s defense was exposed against the Raiders and without Hicks, they may struggle. Hopefully, someone will step up and help plug the middle of that defense so that the Bears can stop the run effectively.
Chicago’s rushing defense took a little bit of a dip after their last game and are now ranked 5th in rushing yards allowed giving up around 83 yards per game. That still isn’t bad but how are they going to perform without Hicks in the lineup? The answer to that question comes Sunday.
If their game against the Raiders is any indication, they may struggle.
The passing defense is allowing teams to throw for an average of 229.2 yards per game which is 10th in the league. The pass rush has not been gaining any traction in most of these games. Khalil Mack failed to have a sack in the game against the Raiders (his former team). He needs help from the guys upfront. Will they be able to give Mack what he needs to rush the passer? Can Mack have a great game?
We can only hope that he will.
Overall, the Bears have allowed an average of 13.8 points per game which is third in the league. Their allowance of 312.2 yards per game is good for sixth in the league.
But they go up against a Saint’s offense that is pretty potent even without their star quarterback, Drew Brees. And they are deceivingly good despite the numbers.
The Saints are scoring an average of 21.3 points per game which is good for 18th in the league. Their high-flying offense has been grounded a little bit due to Brees being out but backup Teddy Bridgewater has been doing fine.
Their total yards per game, on average, is 344.7 which is 22nd in the league. They aren’t putting up some of the bigger numbers that we are used to seeing Saints teams put up but they are still racking up the yards.
As previously stated, the passing game has been without its star, Brees, for a few games now and Bridgewater has taken over. The passing game has been averaging right around 240.3 yards per contest which is good for 15th in the league. They have some weapons and aren’t afraid to use them.
New Orleans is averaging 104.3 yards per game which is much more than what the Bears allow.
Alvin Kamara is the guy in charge of running the football for the Saints. He and the New Orleans rushing attack have been putting up some paltry numbers. But Kamara is injured and isn’t going to play. That leaves Latavius Murray as the running back.
Chicago cannot afford to be weak against the run again and give up a ton of yards to Murray and company.
The Bears got some great play from their special teams against the Raiders a couple of weeks ago and could use a repeat performance from Tarik Cohen.
Eddy Pinero appears to be kicking well and Chicago’s punting, led by Pat O’ Donnell, has been nothing short of excellent.
Saints’ coach Sean Payton is a master at the game and has the edge over Matt Nagy. Payton’s experience, along with his superior coaching staff and way to get the most out of his players is something that Nagy and the Bears haven’t established yet. It will happen eventually but until then, they could take a back seat to the Saints coaching staff in this one.
The following includes the injuries listed for both the Bears and the Saints as of Wednesday of this week.
Joel Iyiegbuniwe-LB-Hamstring-Iyiegbuniwe practiced in full and should be a game-time decision.
Taylor Gabriel-WR-Concussion-Gabriel has practiced in full all week and should be a go for the game Sunday.
Ted Larsen-G-Knee-Larsen was still limited in practice and it looks like he won’t play on Sunday. Rashaad Coward will probably start in his place.
Mitchell Trubisky-QB-Shoulder-Trubisky has been practicing all week and it looks like he will be a go for Sunday.
Bilal Nichols-DT-Hand-Nichols has practiced in full this week and should play on Sunday.
New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees-QB-Right Thumb-Brees has not practiced all week and is doubtful for this Sunday.
Trey Hendrickson-DE-Neck-Hendrickson was limited this week but might play on Sunday.
Alvin Kamara-RB-Ankle-Kamara hasn’t practiced all week. He is out Sunday.
Tre’Quan Smith-WR-Ankle-Smith has not practiced all week and will be out Sunday.
Jared Cook-TE-Ankle-Cook hasn’t practiced all week and will be out for this one.
The Final Word
This is going to be a tough game for the Bears to win but it’s not going to be impossible. They have the drive and the talent to get a victory against the Saints especially because they are at home. But New Orleans may be too much for them to overcome.
However, if the Bears’ defense can have a shutdown game and their offense can get moving against a deceptively stout Saints’ offense, the Bears could win this game.
This might be too close to call. I am going to have to go with the Bears in this one. It will be a tight, low scoring game but Chicago will just pull ahead and come out on top.
Chicago 17 New Orleans 13