The Bears will likely kick off Sunday’s NFC clash against the Saints as underdogs for the seventh time this season. And despite their 5-2 record, it’s easy to see why after their uncompetitive loss to the Rams on Monday.
New Orleans brings a 4-2 record into Soldier Field and is fresh off a 27-24 win against the Panthers. If the season ended today, the Bears would hold the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs, while the Rams would be the first team left out.
Yet, the Saints are road favorites against the Bears. Chicago may be 5-2, but all of its games have a common denominator: They are ugly.
Here’s a preview of the NFL Week 8 matchup.
Saints @ Bears odds, preview
The Bears’ offense reached a new low against the Rams. They mustered just 3 points, as Chicago’s lone touchdown came on defense.
The problems aren’t new. The offensive line can’t get any push, so there are few running lanes for David Montgomery, who averaged 3.4 yards per carry. Nick Foles has little time to throw, and Matt Nagy‘s play calling can be classified as “random” at best.
The Bears rank 29th in scoring offense and total offense. Pretty much any success they’ve had has come when the team is down and in hurry-up mode.
The buzz around Chicago this week: Will Nagy give up play-calling duties? It’s no silver bullet, but it couldn’t hurt at this point.
The Saints’ defense is exploitable, at least, but they are still better than the Bears’ offense. New Orleans allows 29 points per game, which ranks 24th in the NFL.
Weirdly, the Saints rank seventh in total yards allowed per game. The disconnect? They have the worst red-zone defense in the NFL, and it’s not close.
New Orleans allows touchdowns on 86.4% of red-zone possessions. The Bears, on the other hand, lead the league in this stat, allowing opponents in the end zone on just 42.3% of red-zone drives.
But can Chicago gain enough yards to get in the red zone against the Saints consistently? Barring any drastic improvements from what we’ve seen over the past few weeks, the answer is likely no.
A bad offensive line and an immobile quarterback in Foles is a recipe for disaster. New Orleans has a mediocre pass rush, but it has a clear advantage in the trenches against one of the worst position groups in the NFL.
Saints still scary on offense
The Bears still have a good defense that can stack up against anyone, but it has flaws.
The Rams ran for 161 yards on Monday night, exploiting a run defense that has been shaky all year despite Chicago’s excellent pass rush and secondary.
Alvin Kamara isn’t necessarily a between-the-tackles runner, but he’s an all-around stud. Drew Brees may not scare teams as much as he used to, but Sean Payton and the Saints have been able to manufacture offense regardless.
The Saints rank 11th in total offense and seventh in scoring offense, and star wide receiver Michael Thomas has barely played all season. Thomas is out again Sunday, as is Emmanuel Sanders.
While the Bears have outstanding corners in Kyle Fuller and Jaylon Johnson, Thomas is the type of impact weapon that the Saints have lacked outside of Kamara. Chicago will likely fare better against this group than most defenses do, but when it has such little room for error, every typical mistake feels like it carries three times the weight.
The Saints are averaging 30 points per game. Let’s say the Bears hold them to 21 points, which would be a good defensive performance by today’s NFL standards.
Who has faith that the Bears can score three touchdowns on offense? This game could come down to whether or not Chicago scores on defense.
But even that wasn’t close to enough against the Rams. The Bears and Saints kick off on Sunday at 3:25 p.m. CST on Fox.