Panthers Bears Football

Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) hands off to running back Jordan Howard (24) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

WHEN: Noon

WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome

TV: Fox

RADIO: WWL-AM, 870; WWL-FM, 105.3 in New Orleans; KMDL-FM, 97.3 in Lafayette; WDGL-FM, 98.1 in Baton Rouge; en español, WGSO-AM, 990, FM, 97.9

RECORDS: New Orleans 4-2; Chicago 3-4

COACHES: Saints, Sean Payton, 11th season, 98-68; Bears, John Fox, third season, 12-17 (16th season, 131-116 overall)

BEARS BREAKDOWN

LAST WEEK: Chicago's defense did most of the work in a 17-3 win over the Carolina Panthers that vaulted New Orleans into first place. Rookie defensive back Eddie Jackson returned both a fumble and an interception 75 yards for scores, and the Bears sacked Cam Newton five times.

OFFENSE: The headlines are at quarterback, where the No. 2 pick, Mitch Trubisky, has won twice in three starts since taking over for Mike Glennon, but Trubisky's biggest contribution so far has been avoiding mistakes. Trubisky is completing 50 percent of his passes, with two touchdowns and an interception, but he hasn't thrown for more than 128 yards in a game yet. Part of Trubisky's problem is at wide receiver; Kendall Wright is the only wideout with 20 catches. Chicago's best receivers have been rookie running back Tarik Cohen (27 catches, 228 yards) and tight end Zach Miller (20 catches, 236 yards). Trubisky has also taken nine sacks, including four on just 11 dropbacks against the Panthers, as he plays behind an offensive line that is led by its interior trio of Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair and Kyle Long. With the league's second-worst passing game, the Bears have relied heavily on the duo of bruising starter Jordan Howard and the fleet-footed Cohen on the ground. Howard is fifth in the NFL with 560 rushing yards so far, and Cohen adds a big-play element and creativity to the ground attack. 

DEFENSE: Chicago has been able to play a ball-control style of offense because the defense has been fantastic, particularly up front. The Bears rank seventh in the NFL in total defense, 14th in scoring defense, 11th against the run, ninth against the pass, and Chicago hasn't allowed an offensive touchdown in its last nine quarters. Everything starts with Chicago's formidable pass rush. Former Saint Akiem Hicks has blossomed into a Pro Bowl-type talent for the Bears on the interior, and he leads Chicago with six sacks, but the Bears have also gotten edge pressure from Leonard Floyd and Pernell McPhee, who have four sacks apiece. Defensive tackle Eddie Goldman has also been a dangerous player with 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hits. With that quartet leading the way, the Bears are tied for sixth in the NFL with 21 sacks, although the pass rush has been hampered at times by injuries to Willie Young (season-ending torn triceps) and Hicks, who left Sunday's win over the Panthers late, although he said after the game that he'd be OK. Veteran linebacker Danny Trevathan is solid in the middle, and a little-known secondary has been solid, although Matt Ryan put up 321 yards in the season opener and Aaron Rodgers torched Chicago for four touchdown passes. Teams have been able to move the ball on the ground at times against the Bears; Chicago has given up more than 100 rushing yards four times, including each of the last three games.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Cohen's speed makes him a dangerous punt returner, although the Bears let Deonte Thompson handle kick return duties. Kicker Connor Barth has struggled from beyond 40 yards, and punter Pat O'Donnell has allowed opponents to average 13.9 yards per return against Chicago. 


Follow Joel A. Erickson on Twitter, @JoelAErickson.