The Bears might have found a team having just as disappointing a season as they are. And yet, there are scenarios in which that disappointing team is in position to win their division with a losing record. Expectations for the Saints were just as high as, if not higher than, the Bears' own, coming off of an 11-5 season and a wild-card berth; with a high-powered offense and a bottom-rung defense (wait a second, that sounds familiar), they're poised to finish below .500 for the second time since 2008 (and only the third time with single digit wins since then as well, and so far, also the first time with a negative point differential).
Last Year: Finished 11-5, which ended up being second in the NFC South. They beat the Eagles in the wild card round before falling to the Seahawks in the second round.
This Year: 5-8, which is good (?) enough to lead the NFC South, tied with the Atlanta Falcons. Yeah, there are some real possibilities for another 7-9 (or even 6-10) team to host a playoff game. But let's ask the Saints how facing that 7-9 team in the playoffs worked out.
When Last We Met: Last year, the Saints beat the Bears in week 5 to start the year at 5-0, winning the game 26-18. Garrett Hartley kicked four field goals and Pierre Thomas hauled in two Drew Brees touchdowns; Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall each hauled in a touchdown from Jay Cutler. Jeffery also hauled in 218 yards, which at the time set a new single game receiving record.
|Total Points||333 (9th)||359 (30th)|
|Total Yardage||5,473 (3rd)||5,183 (31st)|
|Rushing Yardage||1,608 (9th)||1,736 (29th)|
|Passing Yardage||3,865 (3rd)||3,447 (29th)|
Offense: You know the names here - Drew Brees. Marques Colston. Jimmy Graham. This year, Mark Ingram's picked up more of the load as is befitting his former first round draft pick status, and is putting up his best year so far, setting career highs in yardage, touches (182) and touchdowns (six). But a couple other names that have contributed pretty strongly have been Brandin Cooks, this year's first round draft pick (who we won't see, since he's hit injured reserve with a thumb injury) and Kenny Stills, last year's fifth-round draft pick who currently leads the team in receiving yardage.
They're pretty much the epitome of an NFL spread offense - getting the ball to a lot of targets, using a lot of different backs - Mark Ingram gets the main load, Khiry Robinson backs him up, and Pierre Thomas catches out of the backfield - and oh yeah, the guy throwing the ball is pretty good too. Drew Brees is having a typical Drew Brees year for a team that's got the same record as the Bears, and could be looking at another Pro Bowl berth behind Aaron Rodgers.
Defense: This is pretty much where things have gone sour for the Saints. They're benching Kenny Vaccaro due to his overaggressiveness, and have three other safeties on injured reserve already, including Jairus Byrd and Rafael Bush, shoehorning Corey White into safety play. They don't get after the passer all that well, as only Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette have more than three sacks, and the Saints have 24 sacks on the year, less than two per game. They don't pick up turnovers, with thirteen total turnovers on the season. Curtis Lofton's racked up tackles, but the rest of the defense has struggled - third-worst in the league in rushing yards per attempt against and third-worse in the league in net passing yards per attempt against.
If the Bears do this: Here's the question: If this is supposed to be a shootout with two defenses that fail to perform, and the Saints can bring their offense to a shootout, how can the Bears get their offense going? Matt Forte and Ka'Deem Carey should be a huge part of the Bears game plan, as over the last six games, the Saints have allowed at least 100 rushing yards in each, including three performances over 180 yards and two over 200.
If the Saints do this: As long as Drew Brees is on his feet, the Saints quarterback stands a good chance to tear into the Bears defense; the Saints haven't allowed all that many sacks either.
Closing Thoughts: If the Bears beat the Saints on Monday night, they'll have beaten three of the four NFC South teams, including both current division leaders. Which is kind of an amusing thought.