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Over the Fence – From over the Pond – Week 7

The Saints are now 4-0 under Teddy Bridgewater giving them a 5-1 record on the season. With one of the toughest road games of the season to come on Sunday, they will be hoping to carry the momentum through with them and pick up another win. The head to Chicago facing a Bears team who have been lacklustre on offense but continue to be very tough on defense. Let’s investigate our opponents on Sunday.

Offense:
Not an offense to be greatly feared at the moment, their highest points total of the season was 31 against the lowly Washington Redskins and 7 of those points were from a pick 6. Apart from that the bears have scored 21 or less in the other 4 games. The Bears entered Week 6 (their bye week) ranked 28th in points per game, 30th in total offense, 26th in rushing yards per game and 30th in big plays. However, we will look into some individual players.

Quarterback has been a position of trouble recently. Mitchell Trubisky was the starter at the beginning of the season but has been injured recently with Chase Daniel taking his position under center. Now back and practising it appears the season starter will be available on Sunday.

Trubisky will be back for Saints visit. He has thrown only 3 touchdowns with 2 interceptions in the 4 games he played. Currently Trubisky is only averaging 152 yards a game with a completion % of 65%. Not numbers to strike fear into the hearts of the Saints strong defense. 8 sacks have been allowed against the Bears starter, and with the strong pass rush for the Saints, this is an area they will be looking to attack. Cam Jordan, Sheldon Rankins, Marcus Davenport and a potential return of Trey Hendrickson will only aid this further. The Saints have been hurt a bit with QB who can rush but Trubisky isn’t on that Russell Wilson level of dual threat so should be able to contain him.

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Receiving the ball from either Quarterback is Allen Robinson. By far and away the most productive Wide Receiver with 377 yards in the air. He is averaging 12.2 yards per catch and gets those chains moving for the Bears with 22 first downs. Putting that into context, Robinson has 40% of the Bears total first downs (55 FDs). Again, just the two touchdowns for Robinson, but considering they only have 6 receiving touchdowns, these aren’t bad numbers. Tight coverage again by either Eli Apple or most likely, Marshon “Lockdown” Lattimore will be required.

On the ground, David Montgomery is the leader as we stand with 225 rushing yards and 2 scores. These are the only rushing touchdowns scored by the Bears offense this season and no other player has over 100 rushing yards. Tarik Cohen has only 37 yards on 17 attempts.

The Saints rush defense has been a huge positive this year, holding Zeke Elliott, Leonard Fournette and Roland Jones to not a whole lot. Looking at the Bears they will be hoping to continue this trend and force more passes which could see the wayward Trubisky into some problems. The O-Line v D-Line battle for both teams will be a huge part of who wins this game.

Defense:
The side of the ball in which the Bears are most feared is this one. Sure, this isn’t the famous 1985 team, but they are a damn good unit and have showed it so far this season, especially at home. The Bears D is ranked 3rd in the NFL on points allowed (13.8). The Saints will need to find a way through on Sunday, let’s dive into some of the Bears defensive stars so far this year.

The pass rush has amassed 17 sacks on the season from their 5 games played with star man Khalil Mack leading the way with 4.5 of those. The 6th year player is in his prime right now, his physicality, speed and aggression are his key factors, helping to stack up those sacks. Mack has also forced 4 fumbles as well as deflecting passes and creating a lot of pressure. He isn’t alone on this defence in terms of players to be worried about.

Defensive tackle Nick Williams is next on the sack list with 4. Not a household name but he looks to be heading towards a very productive season in a scheme that suits his plays style. The Bears attack as a group so if Mack or the other line backers don’t get you. Williams will.

The run defense has given up only 83 yards per game, 5th best in the NFL. With Alvin Kamara on the injury report and potentially not ready to go, the Saints will be looking for a lot of production from Latavius Murray. His game is much more ground based that Kamara’s and doesn’t offer the same threat from screens and dump offs. However, he is coming off his best game of the year last week so might be finding his groove in this offense. Murray will want to make up for that Touchdown that got chalked off last week too.

It’s not just the front that’s stacked for the Bears, the secondary is also very talented. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix formerly of Green Bay fame has moved across the division to Chicago and already has 2 interceptions with one returned for a score. After having a poor to average season in Washington, Chicago saw his talent snapped him up. During his time at Green Bay he was one of the first players on the team sheet and the Saints will have to be clever and accurate in the passing game to avoid being picked off.

Kyle Fuller also has two interceptions on the season as well as 5 passed defended. Having been drafted by the Bears in 2014, he remains a big part of their secondary. With the Saints thin at wide receiver, plus the news that Jared Cook didn’t practise on Wednesday the Bears secondary can shut down the air game as much as possible.

Eddie Jackson at safety is very good player as well. Only in his third year, he is yet to get going in terms of stats but is always a threat in coverage. Jackson will probably in double coverage situations on Michael Thomas should the play need it or if he is finding space and making plays.

Teddy Bridgewater will need to find a way to move the chains using the options he has. Michael Thomas, his favourite target will have a tough day against this Bears secondary but if he can get the ball to him, we could see some production. I feel like Ted Ginn Jr. is due a game too. I think the Saints may try a deep shot very early on to Ginn, get on the board early and attempt to defend from that point on utilising Murray to pound the ground and establish a run game. If Alvin Kamara is good to play, this would be a huge plus. However, it isn’t worth risking him to potentially worsen his injury.  

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Prediction:
With the bears more rested following their bye week, being at home and the Saints looking more banged up with the potential loss of Alvin Kamara, limited at best, I’ve gone for Chicago. Hope I’m wrong. It could go either way as I see it being a low scoring one. A TD either way could swing it, like was the case against the Jaguars. If it was in New Orleans, I would have picked the Saints, the Chicago Defense has some questions to answer following their showing in London against the raiders. However, if AK41 does play he could be the X factor the Saints need.

This certainly will be a physical battle and if one defensive line can dominate the opponent’s offensive line, Trubisky or Teddy could be scrambling to avoid those big hits.
Bears 13 – Saints 12
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