The New Orleans Saints visit the Chicago Bears and a win will put them in the driver’s seat of the NFC South following Atlanta’s loss against Pittsburgh Sunday. The Bears sit at the bottom of the NFC North having lost back-to-back games both straight up and against the spread.
Oddsmakers opened this matchup with the Bears as 3-point road underdogs and that has not budged as of Sunday evening.
In order to get a grasp on this primetime matchup, we’ve enlisted the help of those who know these teams the best. Expert NFL bloggers Andrew Juge of Saints blog Saints Nation and Adam Oestmann of Chicago Bears Huddle strap on the pads and debate which team will not only win, but cover the spread Monday night.
WHY NEW ORLEANS WILL COVER
Much improved play on the road
The invincibility the Saints once enjoyed at home is a thing of the past. Unbelievably the team is riding a four-game losing streak in the Superdome for the first time since the Mike Ditka era. But while this Saints team has struggled to win in front of its fans, they’ve found surprising focus and poise on the road. The Saints are riding an impressive two-game road win streak that includes completely outplaying the Panthers in Carolina and Steelers in Pittsburgh. And as much as the media narrative has always suggested Sean Payton’s Saints can’t win on the road, their most recent playoff win less than a year ago was in the Philadelphia cold.
The Bears defense vs. Saints offense matchup
The Saints’ defense is struggling massively at the moment but they still boast the third best offense in the NFL. For the Saints to win given the current state of their defense, they need a huge performance from their offense in a shootout. Luckily for them the Bears are dead last in the NFL in points yielded and 28th in total defense. The Saints have a complete offense that’s capable of beating you on the ground and in the air and this is as favorable of a matchup as there is for them. The Bears have given up 75 points combined the last two weeks. Assuming the Saints can score in bunches, can the Bears keep up without Brandon Marshall?
The Saints have their backs against the wall and this is a must win for a chance at the playoffs. The Bears have nothing to play for and it has shown of late, so expect a bigger effort from the visitors. The Saints were embarrassed last week and it led to some players getting benched and wide receiver Joe Morgan being waived. Sean Payton has sent a message to his team that mental mistakes won’t be tolerated and based on a hard and honest week, expect the Saints to come out and play with more passion in what constitutes as a “do or die” game for them.
WHY CHICAGO WILL COVER
Adam Oestmann is the managing editor for Chicago Bears Huddle on ChicagoNow. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @BearsHuddle.
Jay Cutler and the offense are fuming
Amid the circus surrounding the Chicago Bears’ coaching staff and, more recently, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer’s admission that he turned his back on his players and leaked inside information to NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport regarding the team’s feelings about quarterback Jay Cutler, the Bears’ offense is fuming. This is a dysfunctional team, but after Cutler went out of his way to give the current coaching staff a vote of confidence last week following a loss to the Dallas Cowboys, he has all the motivation in the world to go out and prove himself vs. the Saints. Sidenote: opposing quarterbacks have an average QB rating of 95.5 vs. the New Orleans defense this season.
The Saints’ run defense has been bad, allowing 4.8 yards per carry, third-worst in the league at 29th. The Bears are only slightly better at No. 20, but as of late they’ve been stout, allowing just 140 yards on the ground through their last three (46.6 yards per game). With the weather calling for rain Monday night, Chicago no doubt has an advantage with Matt Forte carrying the ball at home in conditions that should slow Drew Brees down.
I called what’s happening with the Chicago Bears right now a circus, and that’s no lie — it’s been incredible to watch a team many projected as a Super Bowl contender during the offseason disappoint on so many levels. But players still have pride, and given the embarrassment surrounding the organization, I expect these guys to suit up and play hard for themselves, not their coaching staff.
Join in the debate. Who covers on Monday night: New Orleans or Chicago?