There's a reason the New Orleans Saints are nearly a double-digit favorite against the Bears, injuries to both sides and minor home-field edge taken into account.
They're a much better football team.
The Saints only won the earlier game by a field goal in overtime but it's safe to totally discount what happened.
The two teams are so entirely different now, the first game becomes virtually meaningless.
The Bears have a different starting quarterback, starters at three different offensive line positions and last time had Jaylon Johnson, Buster Skrine and Roquan Smith entirely healthy on defense. Tight end Cole Kmet was a couple games from blossoming and Darnell Mooney had use of both ankles.
The Saints also were different than the team they'll put on the field in the Superdome. Trey Hendrickson, tied for second in the NFL with 13 1/2 sacks, won't play Sunday and did in the first game. He produced the key defensive play with an overtime sack to force a punt and set up the win.
The Saints didn't have wide receivers Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders on that day but will Sunday. On the other hand, quarterback Drew Brees was entirely healthy then and not a month removed from a rib area injury so painful that he now wears material from a bulletproof vest to protect it.
All of this and a different Bears blocking scheme in the running game, too, the Saints rate so much better that it's surprising they're not a 13-point favorite.
The Bears only beat one winning team all year, Tampa Bay by a point. The Saints destroyed Tampa Bay twice. They just put 52 points up against the Minnesota Vikings after the Bears patted themselves on the back for scoring 33 against that same defense.
The Bears defense seemed to wear away from attrition by season's end. At midseason they owned the red zone and third downs in league rankings. Now they've dropped to eighth on third down, fifth in the red zone and not even top 10 in overall defense.
The Saints make more sacks, create more turnovers and make fewer, run the ball better, pass the ball better, score more points and allow less. In short, there's nothing the Bears do better than New Orleans.
"It's not perfect. We have a lot of things to get better at, but we can’t worry about that," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "Now what we need to do is worry about everything we can to be the best team that we can on Sunday against the Saints."
There looks to be one path to victory for the Bears in this game and it involves the way they tried to beat Green Bay, but failed to execute. They need to own the football.
Philadelphia kept it and so did the Raiders, and both upset the Saints. However, they managed to score touchdowns besides holding the ball for 34 to 37 minutes.
To do this, Mitchell Trubisky must step up to levels of play he's never come close to yet—both passing it and running it. They'll need plenty of rushing yards from him, if not 106 yards like Jalen Hurts had against the Saints defense then 40 or 50 yards just to help keep the chains moving.
They need him to throw well against a team leading the NFL in interceptions with 18.
They'll need Trubisky to scramble, produce touchdowns in the red zone, and not field goals—or above all else interceptions. He's going to have to beat a playoff team on the road. It's something he's never done, regular season or otherwise.
So no; it's not happening.
The Saints move on 34-13. If it's not over by halftime, it shouldn't be long afterward.