The Chicago Bears will take on the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the NFC Wild Card playoffs. The Bears snuck into the last spot of the NFL wildcard spots after the Los Angeles Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals last weekend. The Saints have the second-best seed in the NFC playoffs, after recording a 12-4 record this season. In the Bears vs. Saints playoff rivalry, the Bears are 2-0.
The Bears have played the Saints once this season already. In week 8, the Bears took on the Saints and forced them into overtime, where they ultimately lost 26-23. Nick Foles threw for 272 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in that game. Wil Lutz kicked a 53-yarder in overtime to seal the win for the Saints.
Bears vs. Saints
Date: January 10th, 2020
Time: 3:40 CST
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium – New Orleans, Louisiana
Chicago Bears: Buster Skrine (O), Josh Woods (Q), Roquan Smith (O), Allen Robinson (Q), Darnell Mooney (O)
New Orleans Saints: Nick Easton (O), Trey Hendrickson (O)
Don’t Abandon the Run: “NO” has not stood for New Orleans this season. A more accurate meaning would be “NO running.” The Saints have one of the best rushing defenses in the league. They have allowed 93.9 rushing yards per game (4th), 0.7 rushing touchdowns per game, (2nd), and 3.9 yards per carry (4th).
David Montgomery has been running well in the back half of the season. David Montgomery has been running extremely well in the back half of the season. An average game in the last six weeks would consist of 19.3 carries, 137.3 scrimmage yards per game, and at least one touchdown. In the first nine weeks of the season, he had just two total touchdowns. It would be tough to eliminate him from the offense in light of the Saints’ tough rushing defense.
Another factor behind this key is the fact that Trey Hendrickson is out of the Saints’ defensive line. This season, he has 13.5 sacks, 25 total tackles, and 12 tackles for loss. He is one of the best defenders for the Saints, and he makes a big impact against his opponents.
Capitalize in the Red Zone: This is something that the Bears have struggled with on offense. Obviously, the Bears are heavily relying on the defense to be a big part of picking apart the Saints’ skill players on Sunday. But, the Bears’ offense needs to contribute in some way. The Saints have allowed the third-highest Red Zone percentage to opponents this season, with a 68% Red Zone score percentage.
The Bears have seen 3.4 Red Zone attempts per game this season, which ranks them 18th in the NFL on the year. They have cashed an average of just 1.9 of them per game (20th). That gives them a 56.36% Red Zone percentage for touchdowns, which ranks them 22nd in the NFL. The offense will need to take advantage of these opportunities. Last week, the Bears settled for three field goals against the Packers, and they were out of the game by the fourth quarter.
Use Allen Robinson: This was tough to watch last game. Allen Robinson’s existence on the Bears’ offense was extremely minimal against the Packers. I bet you would never guess he played the second-highest number of offensive snaps against the Packers last week that he has all season. He played 95% of offensive snaps, totaling 71 total snaps.
However, to his demise, Robinson caught just two passes for 37 receiving yards. This was the second-lowest number of yards recorded in a game all season, and the lowest amount of catches for the entire year. Was this a ploy by Nagy to attract defensive attention? Nobody knows, but it did not work.
Make Brees Throw Deep: Drew Brees is near the final games of his career. He might even retire this season, Super Bowl or not. If you have watched him play, you might have seen that his arm is shot throwing the ball. Plus, he ranks 24th most completed air yards of any quarterback this season.
Roquan Smith will be out for this game. That is a shot to the middle line coverage for the Bears. The Bears have to rely on Danny Trevethan and Josh Woods (if healthy) to defend middle routes. Both of those options are below average coverage linebackers.
Considering we have solid safeties, Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson, we should make them play. Tashuan Gipson has allowed just three touchdowns this year when targeted and a 96.3 QBR to opponents. Eddie Jackson has been having a rough year too, but he would be better to take on Drew Brees’ arm strength.
Contain Kamara: Alvin Kamara is one of the most valuable skill players in all of football right now. This season, he has 932 rushing yards for an average of 5.0 yards per attempt and 16 rushing touchdowns. But, you can’t stop there. Kamara has also recorded 83 catches for 756 receiving yards and an additional five receiving touchdowns. He leads the league in total rushing & receiving touchdowns combined.
In week 8, the Bears were able to contain him well in the run game. He produced just 12 carries for 67 yards and he went without a touchdown for one of just three games for him this season. However, he was able to put up nine catches for 96 yards in the passing game for the Saints.
Just in case you didn’t know, the Bears have never lost to the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs. The Bears beat the Saints in the wildcard round of 1990 and in the 2007 NFC Championship game, to clinch a Super Bowl berth. Since the year 2000, teams who are 8-8 or less that make the playoffs are 6-1 in the wildcard round.
If these facts don’t give you some hope about the Bears playoff game next weekend, then let me share another interesting point. Let’s not forget that the Bears did take this Saints team to overtime in week 8, with Nick Foles as the quarterback. If our defense can play as they did then, we will surely give the Saints a fight on Sunday.