The New Orleans Saints (4-0) will travel to Soldier Field to play the Chicago Bears (3-1) at 1:00 ET. The Saints have been winless at Chicago in the Drew Brees-Sean Payton era mainly due to the weather conditions and the Bears physical style of play. The main key will be to stay turnover free against a Bears defense that scores more touchdowns than some offenses in the NFL. Besides that, here are some players and match-ups to watch.
Charles Brown and Jermon Bushrod
The left tackles for both teams are going to be tested a good bit this game. Charles Brown, the young and talented first year starter for the Saints, will face his toughest challenge yet in Julius Peppers. Peppers is as athletic as they come as far as defensive linemen go. This year, unlike years past, the Saints’ offensive line has given up a good amount sacks; however, Brown has not been targeted as a weak link by defenses, which is encouraging. With no running game up to this point, it will be important for Brown to slow down Peppers who will be pinning his ears back and getting after Drew Brees.
On the other side, the guy who Brown replaced, Jermon Bushrod will be protecting Jay Cutler’s blindside. The Chicago Bears offensive line and the Saints’ defensive line are two of the most improved units in the league this year and they will be matched up on Sunday. When it comes to the Saints defensive line, it is led by Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan and they are going to make Bushrod earn his new contract with their combination of size and speed. If they can keep up their good play, it will be a long day for Cutler.
The resurgent Saints’ defense has been good in many facets, but against the run has not been one of them. Unfortunately for the Saints, Forte is one of the best backs in the business and head coach Marc Trestman uses him in a variety of ways, the most of lethal of which is in the passing game. It will be interesting to see how the defense deals with him out of the backfield. Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne will have their hands full trying to deal with him. It would be crazy, but maybe rookie Kenny Vaccaro will cover him. Whatever the case may be, the front seven will have their work cut out for them. However, if this year has proven anything, it’s that Ryan seems to have the answers to anything.
Graham and Sproles vs Bears Linebackers
Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles have been the catalysts of the Saints’ prolific offense this season. And in the same way Forte stresses the Saints linebackers, Sproles and Graham will put the Bears’ linebackers and safeties to the test. Even without longtime defensive stalwart Brian Urlacher, the Bears still boast one of the better linebacker corps with veterans DJ Williams, John Anderson, and Lance Briggs.
The three won’t be expected to shut down Sproles and Graham, but they will be expected to contain them, which they have the ability to do. What will be interesting is which poison they pick between the two. Last week against the Miami Dolphins showed that if you zero in one of them, the other one will kill you.
Every time the Saints have played the Bears, special teams, one way or another, has an influence the game. And why wouldn’t it? The Bears have one of the best return men in the history of the game in Devin Hester. Thomas Morestead, one of the best punters in league, will have to try to keep the ball away from him on punts and kickoffs. And his job might be made difficult by the unpredictable weather conditions that might not be conducive to touchbacks.
However, the special teams game extends beyond Hester. Kicker Garrett Hartley has been a little shaky on field goals 40 yards and beyond. In what is expected to be a close game with Chicago’s defense, every point will count; it will be critical for Hartley to overcome the weather and cash in on his field goal opportunities.
X Factor 2: Kenny Stills
The Bears defense is better than the Dolphins. Getting the ball to Graham and Sproles won’t be as easy. Also, Marques Colston will be matched up with Charles “Peanut” Tillman. With the rest of the defense occupied, it will be essential for Stills to use his speed and make a contribution against MD Jennings, a very good corner in his own right. It will be difficult, but if Stills can make even a little bit of an impact, a real strain will be put on the Bears’ defense.