New Orleans at Chicago: 5 Things To Know
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton voiced his displeasure this week over the teams’ 5-8 record and inability to beat the Carolina Panthers last weekend. This season has been a full bag of frustration for the coach who took the Saints to the Super Bowl in 2010 and has watched his players and the franchise face its toughest challenges since Bounty Gate two season seasons ago.
Eight losses and a share of the NFC South division lead are not enough to quell the displeasure Payton has expressed over his players’ play, especially on defense. The rumors of strife between Payton and team defensive coordinator Rob Ryan – although denied – may very well be true. But they may not be solved until after the season.
This week, the Saints travel to Chicago to face the 5-8 Bears, bottom feeders in the NFC North. Can Jay Cutler show the form he had last season and can Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffrey provide enough offense to remain competitive?
Here are five things to know about this game.
The Saints and the Bears have met 26 times in the regular season, with the series knotted at 13-13. New Orleans will be looking for their second consecutive win against the Bears. Since 2002, six of the seven games between the two clubs have been decided by eight points or less, including the Saints’ 26-18 victory at Soldier Field on Oct. 6, 2013.
This season both teams face each other with identical 5-8 records. The Bears are at the bottom of the NFC North, while the Saints are tied with the Falcons atop the NFC South and are a tiebreaker behind Atlanta, if the season ended before this game.
It’s hard to believe but the Saints, known for having a huge advantage at home in the Superdome, are playing better football on the road.
In the last month-and-a-half for New Orleans – encompassing six games, beginning with a Thursday night, and nationally televised game against Carolina on Oct. 30 – the Saints have played their best football on the road.
In that time, both of their victories have been away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, while all four losses have been at home. So it doesn’t hurt that the Saints (5-8) have had recent success away from home as they prepare to play the Bears.
The sense of urgency – the Saints control their destiny in the chase for the NFC South Division title and the Bears, though eliminated from the playoff race, and are hoping to finish the season on a high note – is palpable for both teams. New Orleans has lost four of its last five games and Chicago, seven of its last 10.
KEEPING TURNOVERS DOWN
One issue that has plagued the Saints this year is turnovers. New Orleans has a minus-nine turnover differential, with only 13 takeaways compared to 22 giveaways. Quarterback Drew Brees is among the most accurate passers in league history and currently leads the NFL in completion percentage. But he also has seen his interception percentage rise, with 12 interceptions this season, along with four fumbles.
With four veteran starters on injured reserve, the Bears defense is expected to have at least five rookies on the field at times Monday night against the New Orleans Saints.
The Bears on Thursday placed middle linebacker D.J. Williams on injured reserve, joining linebacker Lance Briggs, cornerback Charles Tillman and defensive tackle Lamarr Houston. In addition, safety Chris Conte (back) and linebacker Darryl Sharpton (hamstring) did not practice Thursday, while defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (knee) was limited.
With all the injuries, rookies who could see extensive playing time Monday night at Soldier Field include defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton, linebacker Christian Jones, cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Brock Vereen.
SAINTS NEED, GET HUGE WIN
This may be the weekend that changes everything. The Saints play the Bears while Atlanta will have its hands full with Pittsburgh. Both teams are tied and need WINS. The Saints play an easier schedule the rest of the season. The Bears are dealing with their own troubles internally as well as on the field. The Saints should be able to get this much needed win after already knowing Atlanta’s fate.
SAINTS 31 BEARS 16