With all the drama going on at Halas Hall today, it's easy to forget there's an actual football game set to kickoff on Monday Night. The last place, 5-8 Chicago Bears host the 5-8 New Orleans Saints, who just so happen to be tied for first in the NFC South.
I spoke with JR Ella from our sister site that covers the New Orleans Saints, Canal Street Chronicles, about the Monday Nighter.
WCG: Jimmy Graham only caught 3 of 11 balls thrown his way last week; was that more what the Carolina Panthers did to him defensively, or is his injured shoulder affecting his ability to play at a Graham-like level?
Jimmy Graham is still having a very good season: 68 receptions, 695 yards and nine touchdowns. However, there is no denying that Graham hasn’t been himself in 2014. The reasons are murky. Graham is clearly nursing a shoulder injury; however, it is hard to assess how hurt he is since the Saints top tight end hasn’t missed a single game this year. Two weeks ago against the Steelers, Graham couldn’t get any separation from defenders, so Drew Brees didn’t even look his way. He ended the game with zero targets. As you mentioned, he only caught three passes last week for a measly 25 yards. Right now, Jimmy Graham is just another tight end in the NFL until he proves otherwise.
WCG: If the Saints fail to win the NFC South, is there any chance Sean Payton is on the hot seat? If not Payton, will one of the assistant coaches be the fall guy?
Being the head coach, Sean Payton is eventually the guy who has to be held accountable for the Saints failures this year. However, since 2009 the Saints are 53-24 with Payton on the sidelines (I'm not counting 2012, when he was suspended for the whole year). That's a very good .688 winning percentage. In that time span, Payton's worst ranked offense was 6th top-ranked offense twice (2009 and 2011). This year, the Saints offense is still a top five unit. On the other hand, the Saints defense has been abysmal in 2014.
They rank near the bottom of the league in pretty much every statistical category you can think of. Should New Orleans miss the playoffs this year, the most likely candidate for the ejectable hot seat is defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Whether Payton would actually fire Ryan remains to be seen, as the Saints have dealt with a lot of injuries on the defensive side of the ball. However, there is no doubt that all fingers will be pointed at the long-haired defensive coordinator should the Saints season end on a sour note.
WCG: It turns out former Saints o-line coach, and current Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, was the "source" that was complaining about Jay Cutler. Were there any incidents during Kromer's time in New Orleans as crazy as this?
There were no such incidents when Kromer was in New Orleans, which makes the current events in Chicago even more so surprising, because Kromer has always looked like such a mild-mannered, almost timid man. During Payton's yearlong absence in 2012, Kromer was one of the interim head coaches along with Saints linebackers coach Joe Vitt. When things unraveled on the field for New Orleans, Saints fans clamored for Kromer to show he had a pulse, either on the sidelines or in press conferences. He always looked apathetic and at times it felt like he was in over his head. However, everyone lamented his departure as offensive line coach, because New Orleans' offensive line got significantly worse after Kromer's departure. What happened with him criticizing Jay Cutler and then admitting it is nothing short of shocking to everyone in NOLA.
WCG: If you could pry away one Bears player to place on the Saints' roster, who would it be?
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and it's not all that close. At 24, Jeffery right now is what Marques Colston used to be for the Saints a few years ago. Although the Saints offense is still lethal and productive, Drew Brees has cruelly lacked a big playmaker on the outside with Father Time slowly catching up to Colston and Jimmy Graham being either double and tripled-teamed by defenders or hurt. As you guys probably know, Jeffery is only 51 yards away from a 1000-yard season, he has 73 receptions and eight touchdowns.
If I had a wild card choice, I would definitely steal rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller. In just a few games, Fuller has looked way better than every Saints cornerback except maybe number one corner Keenan Lewis. I think you guys got a good one for years to come in Fuller.
WCG: Time for your game prediction... How much will the Saints win by?
Hahaha, I think you are grossly underestimating the 2014 New Orleans Saints ability to be putrid. That or you are completely overestimating the deficiencies of the Chicago Bears. That said, I think the Saints will win this game and my explanation will satisfy none of you: the Saints are the most schizophrenic team in the NFL.
Two weeks ago, they went on the road in Pittsburgh, outside in the cold and beat a Steelers team that was rolling at that time. A week later, they come home against a Carolina Panthers team that hadn't won in six games and got crushed 41-10 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, a place where they used to be quasi-
So it simply makes sense (to me at least) that after the beating they took from Carolina, the Saints would go on the road, outside on the road in cold Chicago and eke out a 31-28 ugly win.
Thanks again to JR for helping remind us that there is a game to be played this week!
You can check out my answers to his questions about the game by clicking here.