Bears vs Saints. This game comes down to which offense do you trust more. QB Drew Brees has nothing left to prove, being a Super Bowl MVP and all time touchdown pass leader (among many other accomplishments). Not to mention the Saints are the #2 seed in the NFC, despite Brees being placed on injured reserve for multiple broken ribs and a collapsed lung. The Bears on the other hand just barely snuck into the playoffs and their QB situation has been in the spotlight all season for being inconsistent. The Saints roster is full of playmakers and has veteran playoff experience with redemption on their mind after their last few heartbreaking playoff exits.
Let’s start with the Saints’ offense and their keys to victory. They will need all of their offensive weapons to win their matchups quickly to keep the likes of Khalil Mack off of Drew Brees and Taysom Hill. That task was made tougher with the uncertainty of all world RB Alvin Kamara, who was placed on the COVID-19/reserve list before their week 17 matchup with the Carolina Panthers. He has been participating in practicing remotely but is expected to return for Sunday’s game. His return is a huge boost for the Saints and for proof, look no further than his six touchdown performance in week 16. His dual threat skill set is invaluable to this offense. I mean there’s no way to replace a player with 83 receptions for 756 yards and 5 touchdowns, not to mention 932 yards rushing, 5.0 YPC and 16 TD’s. To put it simply, he’s a playmaker who shines the brightest on the biggest stage. Brees certainly hopes he returns for Sunday’s wildcard matchups.
Despite losing WR Michael Thomas, Kamara and Brees at different points this season, Sean Payton’s offense is ranked 8th on 3rd down, 5th in the red zone and scores 30.1 points per game. On paper, this would seem to give the Saints an advantage, as the Bears are the 20th ranked defense and have surrendered 28 TD’s (t-16). However, Chicago is in the top 10 in 3rd down percentage (8th) and red zone defense (5th). They were able to keep the game close in their last matchup with a 26-23 OT defeat in week 8, holding the Saints to 15% 3rd down conversion and forcing 4 field goals. Brees still played excellent completing 75% of his passes for 280 yards and 2 scores. The good news for Saints fans was the Bears only collected on sack and that kind of execution in pass protection must continue this weekend. While I expect the 3rd down percentage to be a bit higher the 2nd time around, I don’t think they need to be perfect to win this game. The return of Michael Thomas will only help these numbers increase and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have a huge game, as well as Kamara if they return. As long as New Orleans can sustain drives and win the turnover battle, their defense can do the rest.
Before I get to the defense, I would be doing the Saints a disservice by not speaking about their swiss army knife in Taysom Hill. He has seen time at QB, receiver and has also run the ball with great effectiveness. How do you stop a player with a combined 2,192 yards and 24 TD’s on the season? The answer is you can really only contain him. He did a great job stepping in for Brees at QB and is someone who you can’t take your eyes off of when he enters the game. Don’t be surprised to see Sean Payton use him in a variety of formations to keep Khalil Mack and his 70.5 career sacks and devastating pass rush out of the back field. Hill totaled 65 yards and a touchdown in the week 8 matchup at Soldier Field. If he has a big game, the Bears will have nightmares all the way into next season.
Meanwhile, Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky needs to play like his job is on the line because if anyone watching the Bears this season will tell you, it probably is. Trubisky played in just 10 games, going 6-3 but threw 16 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. What should be even more concerning is that they only defeated one team with a record above .500 (Tampa Bay Buccaneers). They ended their season with a 8-8 record and Trubisky’s struggles were front and center for everyone to see. Backup Nick Foles wasn’t much better going just 2-5 with 10 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Those numbers alone are disturbing and you can’t win in January with your QB’s turning into Oprah or Santa with handing out turnovers.
What’s worse is they now go head to head with a Saints pass defense that is ranked 4th overall, 9th in 3rd down percentage, 5th in yards per game and 6th in yards per attempt. The key is for Chicago to reach the red zone where they are ranked 29th in touchdowns allowed. With that in mind, you’d think they should turn to their ground attack and ride the legs of lead back David Montgomery. Normally that sounds like a solid idea with Montgomery rushing for 1,070 yards and 8 scores, however the Saints defense is pretty solid in stopping the run too. Good luck facing a team that not only is top 10 in every important category in stopping opposing offensive attacks, but is ranked 5th in yards per carry (3.9) and 4th in yards per game (4th) on the ground. If you’re asking me to trust Trubisky to win the game with his arm, that’s never going to happen.
The Saints will ride the arm of Drew Brees and the furiousness of their top 10 defense to a close victory. I believe that the Bears defense will keep them in this game for a while and will be the only reason this game is close. Their last matchup was only a 3 point victory for the Saints in overtime, so these two teams know each other pretty well and for that I could see the Bears moving the ball on the Saints defense occasionally, but at the end of the day I don’t see them scoring more than 10-13 points. Trubisky’s turnover problems will be his team’s downfall and the Saints will only need 3-4 scoring drives to advance to the divisional round. I also trust the Saints to not turn the ball over more than Chicago’s offense and that will be the difference. Don’t be surprised if the Saints get a defensive score as well. Whether Alvin Kamara plays or not, the return of top receiver Michael Thomas is a huge boost to Drew Brees, as he will have another weapon to throw to. Their chemistry over the years keeps every defensive coordinator up at night in the week leading up to the game. You can never have enough playmakers with Khalil Mack on the other side of the ball.
Bears vs Saints Prediction
Final score: Saints win 27-13. Kickoff begins at 4:40 pm on CBS/Nickelodeon. Leave your game predictions in the comment section below or the CruelFan Facebook page.
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By: Whitney Dowds CruelFan.com