SCOUTING REPORT: Quite similar to the sentiment in the Crescent City, the Second City’s squad has been surprisingly second-rate this season
If you think you’re alone in your despair, fear not, Saints fans: The city of Chicago is in collective need of Prozac thanks to the play of the disappointing Bears.
Like the Saints, many felt Chicago had the potential to be a playoff team. And, like the Saints, Chicago has failed miserably. The only difference is that New Orleans is being kept alive by a weak division, and the Bears already have been eliminated from playoff contention.
Those in Chicago have struggled to quantify how and why it has all gone wrong. Quarterback Jay Cutler has the tools to win games, yet he manages to find ways to give them away. And his receivers, Brandon Marshall (until he was injured last week) and Alshon Jeffery, were among the most talented one-two punches in the NFL. And many expected the defense to perform at a passable level, but instead the Bears rank 28th in total defense.
In other words, things have not gone as expected. But, like New Orleans’, Chicago’s talent has to be respected.
Without Marshall, Jeffery is going to have to become Cutler’s downfield threat, which he is more than capable of doing. Chicago also has a talented tight end in Martellus Bennett, and running back Matt Forté can make life difficult as both a receiver and runner.
It will be interesting to see how the Saints choose to attack Bennett since Kenny Vaccaro reportedly is being benched this week. Vaccaro spent a good amount of snaps on Carolina tight end Greg Olsen last week, but that responsibility could fall to the linebackers this time around.
That could be a scary proposition. After Marshall was injured, Bennett caught 12 passes for 84 yards with a touchdown during last week’s game against the Cowboys. It’s likely that he will remain a focal point of the offense again this week.
So, while there are problems the Saints need to solve on defense, the good news is that the Bears are facing many of the same issues.
As it has so many times this season, it will be about the Saints minimizing their mistakes.
Know your opponent: Bears QB Jay Cutler
If you were told that your quarterback would complete 66.8 percent of his passes with 265 yards per game, is that something you would be interested in?
Most teams would take those numbers. That completion percentage would place your quarterback in the top five, and his yards per game would rank just outside of the top 10.
But most teams likely would take a moment to reconsider when they found out those numbers belong to the Bears’ Jay Cutler.
Cutler has long had the talent to appear to be an enticing option at quarterback. His arm strength is probably among the best in the game, and he looks the part. But, for whatever reason, he has struggled to piece it all together.
His numbers this year have been undermined by seemingly senseless mistakes that you would not expect from a player who has been in the league for nine years. That sentiment is supported by the fact that Cutler has thrown 15 interceptions, which entering this week placed him second behind Jacksonville rookie Blake Bortles, who had 16 passes picked off.
There clearly will be opportunities for the Saints to take the ball away.
Three and out
1 KHIRY’S CARRIES: Will he get back in the game? That wasn’t the case last week as Mark Ingram carried the load. If the Saints stick to the ground more often, will Robinson receive some carries?
2. MEACH OR TOON? Nick Toon played well the past few weeks while Robert Meachem was nursing an injury. Will that continue this week, or will the Saints go back to Meachem?
3. SAFETY CONCERNS: Kenny Vaccaro reportedly was told that he will be benched this week. How do the Saints fill that void at safety?
QUESTIONABLE: OLB Junior Galette (knee), LT Terron Armstead (neck)
-- Galette missed two practices but returned to team drills in a limited capacity Saturday. Armstead missed one practice and was limited the other two; he said he anticipates playing.
PROBABLE: LB David Hawthorne (hip), DL Akiem Hicks (ankle), CB Keenan Lewis (illness)
-- Hawthorne and Hicks were limited in practice for two days and then fully participated Saturday, a good indicator they’ll be set to go health-wise Monday. The same is true of Lewis, who was limited in practice Friday but was a full participant the other two days.
doubtful: S Chris Conte (back)
QUESTIONABLE: DT Jeremiah Ratliff (knee), DE Cornelius Washington (ankle), K Robbie Gould (right quad), T/G Michael Ola (back)
Ramon Antonio Vargas: Saints 21, Bears 17
In this Saints season, down is up; up is down; black is white; and white is black. I believe a team that has lost four straight in its domed home venue will not do well in the rain and wind forecast for its game in Chicago on Monday night. It’d make sense, right? And because little has made sense this season, I’ll go with the Saints to win in the Windy City.
Nick Underhill: Saints 24, Bears 23
Considering how many Saints games I’ve missed on this season, if you’re placing wagers, you should probably just go with the opposite of what I say in this space each week. It’s a sound strategy. Check the results. So, go lay some money on the Bears if you need some fast cash. I’m taking the Saints.
Scott Rabalais: Saints 25, Bears 19
Much more than 5-8 records were expected from the Saints and Bears, but now that we’re here, someone has to win. Nothing says the Saints should win other than, in this topsy-turvy season, they suddenly can’t win in New Orleans and they are coming off wins at Carolina and Pittsburgh. The Bears are vulnerable, and just maybe the Saints’ shakeups will prove beneficial.