New Orleans Saints vs. Chicago Bears Preview and Pick

Note: If you’re
looking for the 2013 Week 5 NFL matchup between these teams, please go here:
Orleans Saints vs. Chicago Bears Pick

New Orleans Saints (7-6) +3, 45 O/U at Chicago Bears (7-6) -3, 45 O/
U, Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill., 8:15 PM Eastern, Thursday, NFL Network

by Badger of

The NFL Network scores a hit this Thursday when they broadcast a
must-win showdown between the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago
Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago.

At 7-6, the Bears must win to keep alive their chances at an NFC
North Division title. One game behind the Minnesota Vikings already,
the Bears will have to put forth another solid outing like they did
last Sunday in their 23-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Also 7-6, the Saints need to win to keep whatever scant playoff hopes
they have alive and on life support. They stayed alive last week with
a 29-25 win over the Atlanta Falcons, but they trail the Dallas
Cowboys, Falcons and the one-tie Philadelphia Eagles for the NFCs
final wildcard spot, so their odds are mathematical at this point.

Oddsmakers opened the game with the Bears as the standard 3-point
home favorites, and the number has held with the lone exception being, which lists the Bears as 2.5-point favorites. The over/
under total opened at 46 and has dropped to 45 or even 44.5 at most
offshore sportsbooks. The moneyline lists Chicago as -150 favorites,
with the Saints as +130 underdogs.,

Offensively these two teams have vastly different approaches on how
to get the job done.

The Saints own the NFLs top offense (405.9 ypg) and the games top
passing attack (310.2 ypg) with quarterback Drew Brees calling the
shots. With Brees throwing the ball all over the field, the Saints
also own the NFLs 2nd-ranked scoring offense at 28.2 points per game.

But last week the Saints displayed balance they havent had in over
two seasons. Pierre Thomas (102 yds., 5.4 yards per carry) and the
return of Reggie Bush allowed the Saints to run for a season-high 184
yards versus the Falcons. If the Saints are able to repeat that
performance on the ground, it will no doubt open up the play-action
passing game the Saints havent had the luxury of using in years.

The Bears are strictly a run-first, play-action passing attack that
has struggled at times to gain yardage (308 ypg 24th) and score
points (23.4 ppg 16th). Rookie running back Matt Forte is over
1,000 yards already and has been a pleasant surprise for Bears fans,
but the lack of weapons at receiver and a true top-tier quarterback
to get the ball to them keeps the Bears passing scheme very vanilla
and in the lower half of the league (195.1 ypg 21st). Kyle Orton
rebounded last week to have a strong game (20-of-34, 219 yds., 2 TD),
but the previous three weeks he only hit 49.4 percent of his passes,
which is a direct indication of how weak the Bears passing game truly
is most of the time.

Its on the defensive side of the ball where these two teams take 180-
degree turns. The Bears rely on their defense to keep them in every
ballgame, sometimes to a fault, while the Saints just simply have a
hard time stopping anybody at times.

The Bears defensive unit ranks 17th overall (325.4 ypg) and is
particularly strong versus the run (91.2 ypg 6th). However, their
weak point is pass defense (234.2 ypg 28th) and that certainly
looks bad on paper when they will be facing the Saints and Brees and
the leagues top passing offense.

The Saints defense is 23rd overall (346.3 ypg), and is also better
versus the run (112.8 ypg 20th) than the pass (233.5 ypg 27th),
but they give up points in bunches usually which is why they are 24th
in scoring allowing over 25 points a game (25.1).

The Bears have the Saints number in head-to-head games recently too,
as the Saints season has basically ended in Chicago the past two
seasons. The Bears knocked them out of the 2006 playoffs with a 39-14
victory as similar 2.5-point favorites at Soldier Field in early
January of 2007. Last year the Bears beat the Saints 33-25 in the
final week of the regular season ending the slim chance of playoffs
the Saints had going into the game as 1-point road favorites.

All told, these two are 4-4 straight up in their last eight meetings
in the regular season, while the Saints hold a slim 4-3-1 ATS record
in the series. The over has been a solid wager, going 5-2-1 in the
same eight games since the 1997 season.

Despite their struggles to win, the Saints have been good to bettors
with a 9-4 ATS record and four straight covers. The Saints have gone
over the total in eight of their 13 games this season, and the over
is 13-4-1 in their last 18 overall.


The Bears are just 6-6-1 ATS in 2008, but have covered in two of
their last three since a three-game non-covering streak during the
midseason. Despite being just 5-8 versus the total in 08, the Bears
do have a tendency to go over at Soldier Field (19-7 in last 26 home

Badgers Pick: The weather is going to be cold, but mostly element-
free tonight. In other words, Brees should be able to throw with
little trouble and the field should be solid without too much
slipping and sliding. I like the over tonight, as Brees should be
able to throw versus a weak Chicago pass defense and the Bears should
be able to run and throw versus a weak Saints defense. Go with the
over of 45.