After defeating what some would consider the toughest team in the NFC South last week, the Bears get to move on to a team that many others had picked as a potential Super Bowl representative in 2011, also from the NFC South. I hooked up with Dave Cariello of Canal Street Chronicals, known mostly for duping many SBN bloggers out of tens of dollars with his own version of a Ponzi scheme, to get his thoughts on the upcoming game. You can check out their version here.
1- It's always fun to hear about the front office of other teams, especially considering that Bears management at times has been known to fall all over themselves. With the Saints, you've got owner Tom Benson, co-owner (and granddaughter) Rita Benson, GM Mickey Loomis, and head coach Sean Payton. Can you tell us about that dynamic, and how well they all work together as a group?
Dave: It's great. I have heard repeatedly and from many different people, that the Saints are currently a very well-run, professional organization. Loomis and Payton appear to be the ones in control on the personnel side. I get the impression that team owner Tom Benson just writes the checks; he's certainly no Al Davis as it relates to meddling. And his granddaughter, Rita Benson LeBlanc, handles much of the business and P.R. stuff. As a fan, I couldn't be happier with the current front office. It's definitely been a welcome culture change.
2- When NFL fans think of the Saints, first thought turn to Drew Brees and the passing attack. Tell us about some other strengths of the team that we might not know about.
Dave: Interestingly, I think much of the talk this season has been about the Saints' new and improved running game. Pierre Thomas is healthy again and back to kicking ass in the screen pass department. First round draft pick Mark Ingram adds great power between the tackles with a dash of agility. Darren Sproles is just a better version of Reggie Bush. And to top it all off, they found Joique Bell, who looked absolutely amazing during preseason and is ready to step up if and when injuries to the starters become an issue. We didn't see it much last week because they were playing from behind the entire game but I expect (read: hope) the Saints offense to be more balanced in their playcalling this year. They certainly have the talent.
3- On the other side of the coin, what are the biggest areas of concern for your team heading into the game against Chicago?
Dave: I'm really just worried about the defense in general. They looked porous and soft last week against Green Bay. I'd like to see more pressure on the quarterback and better coverage from the secondary. I'm confident the Saints offense can put up a fair amount of points against any defense; as simple as it sounds, they just need to stop their opponent from putting up more.
4- Which of your rookies and sophomores are likely to make the biggest impact for the Saints this season?
Dave: If we're including sophomores then it's gotta be a toss-up between rookie running back Mark Ingram and tight end Jimmy Graham. We saw last week just how much Payton already trusts Ingram when he chose to hand the ball off to the rookie on the final play of the game. On the receiving end Jimmy Graham figures to be one of Drew's favorite targets this year. He's a natural athlete with an immense amount of raw talent. As far as a bigger impact this season, I think the possibilities are equal for both Ingram and Graham.
5- What was your take on the Bears game versus the Falcons last week, and how well do you think we will match up against the Saints?
Dave: I only caught the highlights but it seemed like the Bears got a lot of help from their defense by winning the all-important turnover battle. That'll do it every time. Hopefully the Saints don't make the same mistake. I'm also not sold on the fact that the Falcons are as good this year as they were last year. Considering those two factors, I certainly think the Saints have what it takes to beat the Bears this Sunday. Unfortunately, I think it's a tough matchup for the Saints. I don't expect this game to be easy for them. There's got to be a reason Chicago has won the last three games, right? A superb performance by the Bears defense, including turnovers, would shut down the Saints offense, which would be a problem assuming their defense looks as bad as they did last week.