What a matchup we have here, folks. In one corner, we have a playoff contending team with a chip on its shoulder for the way they played last season, and in the opposite corner, we have a pretender with no chip on its shoulder because they are simply an average team.
Yes, Sunday's FOX Sports Game of the Week between the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears should be an interesting one to watch. And, if you are not a frequent reader of our site, then you probably are confused which team is which. Well, as I explained last week, I have no faith in Jay Cutler and, therefore, I have no faith in the Bears.
I like new head coach Marc Trestman and the positivity he brings to the field, but with a quarterback who reeks of turnovers like Cutler does, it is difficult to be consistent.
It's one thing to have to overcome a turnover-happy quarterback, but when the defense gives up 139 rushing yards to the likes of Reggie Bush, that is another issue altogether. Chicago has been historically known for their impeccable defense, so if they don't even have that right now, they should be worried.
Interestingly, though, the Bears defense has given up only the 18th most rushing yards, but there is definitely an asterisk to that optimistic stat. Two of their four games have come against BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Jonathan Dwyer, who are not the most imposing running backs in the league. Their other two games came against Bush and Adrian Peterson, who racked up 100 yards on 26 carries.
So, when Chicago plays above average running backs, they are yielding a great deal of yards on the ground, which will make any quarterback look like the opposite of Jay Cutler (sorry, it's just too much fun).
Chicago has been historically known for their impeccable defense, so if they don't even have that right now, they should be worried.
But, none of that really matters in this game because the Saints don't accumulate too many yards on the ground. The real problem for the Bears is that the Saints rarely use their ground attack not because their backs are mediocre, but because the offense doesn't really need to. Drew Brees is that good.
New Orleans is tied for sixth in the league in total points, which is largely due to their pass-friendly offense. Heading into this week, the Saints rank seventh in passing attempts,
Herein lies the problem for Chicago: their defense has given up the 10th most passing yards so far this season. Let's face it, the Bears defense has not been what it used to be. They have not given up fewer than 21 points in a game this season, putting the pressure on Cutler to put up big numbers in order for them to win. And, unfortunately for the Bears, we all know that the pressure to produce will only lead to one result: many Cutler turnovers.
Even the best quarterbacks can't put up 30 points every week, (well, maybe Peyton Manning can) so this defense will need to step up in this game and stifle Brees and the Saints if they want to have a chance.
Their first course of action should be to take Jimmy Graham out of the game. I don't mean by hurting him (trust me, I'm not invoking Gregg Williams' presence here), but by game planning correctly against him. He should be doubled in the red zone at all times. Yes, I know he is a tight end, but if you have two linebackers pressing him off the line, he won't have the time to get into his route, which will force Brees to look elsewhere.
Given how unstoppable Graham has been this season — he's averaging over 100 receiving yards per game and has six touchdowns in just four games — slowing him down will be a tough task, but it's essential if they want to force the Saints to kick field goals instead of scoring easy touchdowns in the red zone.
But what is being overlooked by everyone, including me so far in this preview, is the improved Saints defense under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
Ryan, in his fourth stint in the past six seasons, has his defense ranked in the top-5 in points allowed, which is a far cry from their 31st rank last season. In other words, this Saints team is well-rounded, and as one of our writers illustrated last week, having Sean Payton back is making a major impact.
I don't like making predictions because, when it comes down to one game, who really knows? Anything can happen. But let me just say that I believe whole-heartedly in the Saints as a contender in the NFC and, although I think the Bears are a good team, I believe they will be exactly where they are every season: a win or two from the playoffs.
Either way, we do know that this will be a high-scoring affair. Well, for one side at least.
This FOX Sports NFL Game of the Week preview was sponsored by State Farm