NFL Wild Card Preview: Chicago Bears vs. New Orleans Saintsby Johnnie Black January 10, 2021 1 comment
The New Orleans Saints (12-4) won the NFC South and slot in as the second seed. The Chicago Bears (8-8) grab the seventh seed by virtue of the tiebreaker with the Arizona Cardinals. These two teams met up at Soldier Field in Week 8 with the Saints winning 26-23 in overtime. A lot has changed since November 1, but one thing is for sure, it should be a close game.
The Bears Offense
Back when these teams met during the regular season Nick Foles had supplanted Mitchell Trubisky as the starting quarterback. Mitch has since gotten his job back and has been playing well. In his six games since being put back in as the Bears’ signal-caller, Trubisky has a 70.1 completion percentage with 1,495 yards and a 10/5 TD/INT rate. He has also chipped in 105 yards on the ground with a rushing TD. He seems to have renewed life and won three games in a row before falling to the Green Bay Packers last Sunday.
Coinciding with Trubisky’s return, David Montgomery has become a bigger part of the offense. The second-year back hasn’t disappointed. In the past six games, Montgomery has averaged nearly 100 yards on the ground and has scored eight TDs after scoring just two in the first nine weeks. Allen Robinson has been the go-to receiver for the Bears no matter who was under center. The 27-year-old wideout set a career-high with 102 receptions and had 1,250 yards with six TDs. Rookie Darnell Mooney has stepped up this year as well. Second on the team with 61 catches, he set the team’s rookie record for receptions. Mooney is questionable and will likely be a game-time decision as he is dealing with an ankle injury.
The Bears Defense
The linebacking crew of Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan, and Khalil Mack is a force to be reckoned with. Mack led the team with nine sacks and had three forced fumbles and an interception. Trevathan had 113 tackles and five passes defended. Smith was a tackling machine with 139 along with four sacks, seven PD, and a team-high 18 tackles for a loss. He is also a game-time decision and is listed as questionable after not practicing all week. If he is unable to go, it would be a big blow to Chicago’s defense. Some good news is that rookie cornerback Jaylon Johnson may be active for Sunday’s game after missing the last three games with a shoulder injury. The second-round pick out of Utah led the team with 15 passes defended. He will form a solid duo with Kyle Fuller if he is able to go.
The Saints Offense
Drew Brees will be running the offense as the Saints enter the playoffs for the ninth time in his 15 years with the team. Brees is expected to retire after the season and the soon to be 42-year-old is in search of his second ring. He has had a three-game tuneup after suffering broken ribs and a punctured lung against the San Francisco 49ers back in Week 10. Taysom Hill will be filling in here and there as Sean Payton usually does, but expect the Saints to rally around their future Hall-of-Fame QB.
New Orleans led the NFL in rushing TDs with 30 and a large part of that was Alvin Kamara who had 16 including a record-tying six against the Minnesota Vikings on Christmas Day. While Kamara led the team with 932 yards on the ground, Hill and Latavius Murray combined for 1,113 and 12 rushing TDs to give the Saints a diverse rushing attack. Michael Thomas is expected back for the game after dealing with multiple leg injuries all season. In his absence, Kamara led the team in receptions, setting a career-high with 83. With Thomas missing time, the Saints were able to lean on a few solid targets in Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook. The two veterans will need to step up if Thomas isn’t at full strength. New Orleans will also be without Tre’Quan Smith.
The Saints Defense
The Saints will be missing one of their biggest contributors against the Bears. Trey Hendrickson, the team leader in sacks with 13.5, has been ruled out with a neck injury. While missing your best pass rusher isn’t ideal, New Orleans has depth on the edge. Cameron Jordan has been good this season with 7.5 sacks and 51 tackles while often dealing with double-teams or chip blocks from running backs. Carl Granderson and Marcus Davenport will likely rotate in replacing Hendrickson.
David Onyemata has 6.5 sacks and is tied for second on the team along with Jordan with 16 QB Hits and chipped in 10 TFL. His play in the middle of the defensive line is a large reason why the Saints have a top-5 run defense. The secondary has also played well as Dennis Allen has mixed up his coverages. Marshon Lattimore is likely to be tasked with shutting down Robinson. Janoris Jenkins will likely cover Mooney which still leaves a few options for Allen to matchup on Jimmy Graham and Cole Kmet.
Date: January 10, 2021
Start Time: 4:40 pm EST
Location: New Orleans, LA
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
TV Info: CBS, Amazon Prime, Nickelodeon
Betting Odds Sponsored by Jazz Sportsbook
Point Spread: CHI +10 (-115) | NO -10 (-105)
Moneyline: CHI +400 | NO -525
Over/Under: O 47.5 (-110) | U 47.5 (-110)
The Saints’ last eight playoff games have been decided by fewer than the 10 points in this spread. These two teams played to overtime when they met earlier this season as well. Take the Bears with the points. The over/under is a little tougher. There are question marks on both sides as far as who will be on the field and who won’t. I would lean toward the over. In 41 playoff games in a dome, the over has hit 29 times.
The Saints will have their big guns healthy and ready to go on offense, but the Bears have been putting up points with the resurgence of Trubisky and Montgomery. Chicago will hang with New Orleans for the first half with the Saints eventually pulling away. The Bears will score a late TD to cover, but the Black and Gold will win and prepare to face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next week.
Final Score: Chicago Bears 23, New Orleans Saints 31
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images