Bears vs. Saints: NFL Wild Card odds, preview, and pick
The Chicago Bears will travel to New Orleans for an NFC Wild Card game with the Saints on Sunday afternoon.
Let's break down the matchup and make some picks.
Chicago Bears vs. New Orleans Saints
Sun, January 10 2021, 9:40 PM
New Orleans Saints
Bears severely hampered on defense
With just four weeks left in the regular season, Chicago was on the outside looking in, with a 5-7 record. However, a favorable late-season schedule allowed the Bears to secure three consecutive wins and sneak into the playoffs.
But Chicago suffered a variety of losses in its final game of the season. Not only did the Bears fall, 35-16, to the Packers, but they may have lost two key players. Linebacker Roquan Smith, arguably the best player on the Chicago defense this season, left with an elbow dislocation and did not return. On the other side of the ball, wide receiver Darnell Mooney suffered an ankle injury, which ended a career game for him (10 catches for 93 yards).
Mooney’s injury can be overcome, but the loss of Smith would be devastating for a Chicago defense that has carried its putrid offense. Smith would be relied upon to match up with the Saints running backs in the passing game, a key part of their offensive attack. While Chicago coach Matt Nagy would not comment on Mooney's status Monday, the injury report Wednesday should provide a more definitive status for the linebacker.
As for the Chicago offense, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has failed to meet expectations. While he has thrown 16 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions in 10 games this season, nine of those touchdown passes came against the Lions, Jaguars, and Texans, three of the worst defenses in the league.
Benched for Nick Foles earlier in the season, Trubisky did not throw a pass in their three-point loss to the Saints in early November. In his three starts this year against playoff teams, Trubisky has thrown five touchdown passes and five interceptions.
Saints hope to have their "Big Three" available
The Saints caught a huge break with their playoff game scheduled for Sunday. Were it played a day sooner, running back Alvin Kamara would not have been able to play, as he would have been in his final day of COVID-19 quarantine.
Now, pending negative tests, Kamara could return, along with wide receiver Michael Thomas, who has been on injured reserve.
Even if Kamara is unable to return, the Saints will get back the rest of their running back corps, as many had to miss last week's game because of contact tracing. Ty Montgomery filled in nicely, with 105 rushing yards on 18 carries with one catch on the day, and he could feature again if Kamara does not return.
Drew Brees has looked good since his return from injury. He threw for six touchdowns and 746 yards in three games, with only three interceptions. New Orleans leads the NFL with an average of 5.1 yards per rush on first downs this season, which has taken some of the pressure off Brees. However, Brees has struggled at times with downfield passes, so the return of Thomas would be a huge boost.
Unlike years past, the Saints defense might be the best unit on the team. It ranks in the top six in every major category, and it came away with five interceptions last week. While the Saints have allowed a bit more scoring over the last month, only three of their last nine opponents scored more than 16.
The Saints recorded the eighth-most sacks, tied for the league lead in interceptions, and will cause Trubisky problems all game long.
Bears and Saints statistics and rankings
|Team||Passing yards||Rushing yards||Passing yards allowed||Rushing yards allowed|
New Orleans Saints
Chicago vs. New Orleans injury report
For Chicago, the injuries to Smith and Mooney are obviously going to be something to watch leading up to Sunday. As of Tuesday, they were both questionable. The Bears may also still be without cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson and Buster Skrine, although Johnson is now considered day to day.
Chicago's Marcus Williams is questionable, while fellow safeties D.J. Swearinger and C.J. Gardner-Johnson are on the COVID list and may play Sunday.
Bears vs. Saints betting trends
Chicago has covered in just two of its last six games with New Orleans, and lost all six. The total has gone Over in five of Chicago's last six games.
New Orleans has covered in seven of their last nine, with one push. The Saints have won 11 of their last 13 games. The total has gone Under in six of their last nine games and Under in four of their last six against Chicago.
These teams have solid defenses, but without Smith, the Bears are not the same team. Their pass defense severely suffers with him off the field, and their leading tackler is the heart and soul of their run defense.
The Saints love to face below-average quarterbacks, and they will be licking their chops against Trubisky.
With Thomas back in the fold, Brees should be able to move the ball effectively and will likely get some short-field situations, thanks to his defense. The Saints will cover easily and move on to the next round.