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The Saints are 4-0 and seem to have recaptured their offensive magic with the return of the game's best play-called, Sean Payton. They now come to Chicago in early October, in fine conditions, to see if they can finally beat the Bears at Soldier Field. So why do I like the Chicago Bears this week?
I always like the Chicago Bears.
BUT WHAT FOOTBALL REASONS, JEFF?
- Saints don't run the ball with any effectiveness and teams will have a hard time beating the Bears in Chicago with a toss-it-every-down approach. There are just too many opportunities for the secondary to get their hands on the football.
- Jay Cutler historically rebounds well from poor performances and the Saints secondary is not an elite group. This Bears team has the opportunity to be the most explosive in franchise history, with weapons all over the field, and I expect them to continue their ascension each week.
- Matt Forte.
- I love the way Marc Trestman responded to the Bears loss in Detroit. He is an intensely positive man but stands on the podium and addresses errors with a refreshing openness and honesty. Where Lovie Smith would have said "None of us played well" in response to Cutler criticism, Trestman talked about Cutler "let his fundamentals go". It is one thing to respond well mentally to a loss but how will the Bears respond physically? I expect a spirited effort. The entirety of the Trestman quote is here:
"I see him do so many things in practice, moving his feet and doing the right things. But he's got to hang onto the ball on the quick throw he had to the left backed up. He dropped the ball down. He put it in one hand. He's got to have it in two hands, and he's got to throw it away or move on. He was trying to make something happen late and he let his fundamentals go. These are things he's done better this year, and we're going to work at them. We're in Game 4 and know we've got to get better. That's what we'll attempt to do this week."
- The Saints are 4-0, yes, but three of their first four games have been at home. Their one road game was a poor performance and a 16-14 victory over a Bucs team that can't get out of their own way. That Sunday the Saints didn't score a touchdown in the final three quarters. Saints are a team whose splits tend to tell two different tales. I expect that trend to continue.
- If Izzy Idonije gave the Bears an advantage last week how does the presence of Aaron Kromer and Marc Trestman not give the Bears an advantage? Kromer was head coach of the Saints a year ago during the dark times and Trestman was a consultant for Sean Payton in years past. I don't think they'll be surprised by anything the Saints try to do Sunday.
DA BEARS CONCERNS
- Concern #1: Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham are special talents and matchup nightmares for the entirety of the NFL. The Bears won't be able to shut down either player but they must find ways to limit the damage. This means safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright must keep the game in front of them - something they struggled awfully to do a week ago in Detroit.
- Concern #2: Adam Podlesh has taken the cash earned from his first half against the Cincinnati Bengals and spent it all on Fruit Stripe gum. (It starts delicious but the flavor is gone by the fourth chew.) Podlesh is now being rated by all accountable evaluators as the worst regular punter in the sport and that doesn't bode well for a contest against a dynamic offense.
- Concern #3: This is a very important ball game for the defensive confidence of the Chicago Bears. For the first time in recent memory the local media and fans are preparing to lessen their expectations on the unit. But one thing to note about the Bears defense: when people quit on them is when they tend to deliver their finest performances. Will that be the case Sunday?
THE MATCH-UP OF REMARKABLE IMPORTANCE
- Mel Tucker v. Sean Payton. On paper it's a wild mismatch. Off paper it is too. Payton will undoubtedly attack the Bears defense in ways the Bears do not expect in an effort to grab an early lead and drain the enthusiasm from the Soldier Field faithful. How Tucker responds, in-game, will be pivotal. If the front four is not reaching Brees, Tucker must create pressure. If linebackers and safeties are losing jump balls to Graham, Tucker must deploy his tall corners. The Bears have been a better defense during the second halves of their first four games but against a team like the Saints the second half may be too late. Tucker must be ready to adjust well before the thirty-minute mark.
Jay Cutler, from Michael C. Wright's piece on ESPN Chicago:
"You never really are in the present in the NFL. You're either talking about what's coming up or you're talking about what just happened. You're never really living in the moment and talking about the now, and ‘What can we do now to get better?' That's what our job is as players, and that's the perspective we've got to keep. Obviously you've got to look at what's ahead of you. But after that game is over, you've looked at it, it's over with. The only thing right now that we can control is getting ready for the Saints. I think we learned a lot about our team already in the second half of that Detroit game; the way that offensively we kept fighting."
THE MOST INTERESTING PLAYER ON THE FIELD
- Bears LB James Anderson has been one of their best defensive performers over the first month of the season but the Saints pose the league's most difficult challenge to a coverage linebacker. Will Anderson ever be isolated on Graham or Sproles? I couldn't tell you. But he'll need to be active in space for the defense to have any success.
THIS PHOTO HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS WEEK'S GAME
(Photo courtesy of Dan Patrick Show producer and friend of DaBearsBlog, Paul Pabst.)
A BEAUTIFUL SONG ABOUT LOUISIANA
A SINGLE STAT PREDICTION (2-2)
- Julius Peppers has been playing brilliantly the last two weeks and this week he sees the fruits of his labor with 2+ sacks.
WRAPPING IT UP IN A FEW SENTENCES
- We begin to see the Bears offense take steps towards the upper echelon of the league as Jay Cutler responds to his poor performance in Detroit with a pair of touchdown passes and clean turnover sheet. Brees still gets his but the Saints' inability to run the ball/run the clock gives Trestman and Cutler too many opportunities.
- Chicago Bears 30, New Orleans Saints 23