The New Orleans Saints (4-2) travel to Soldier Field for the second time in just over a calendar year to battle the Chicago Bears (5-2). Both teams near the halfway mark of the season with playoff hopes and winning records. However, the teams are trending in opposite directions.
The Saints are riding a three-game win streak while the Bears are looking to bounce back after a disappointing showing on Monday Night Football against the Rams. Below are three things Who Dat Nation should watch for during the Saints Week 8 matchup.
Will the Saints defense shine vs. one of the league's worst offenses?
It has been a narrative for weeks. When will the Saints defense turn it around? Before the start of the 2020 NFL season, many analysts predicted that the Saints defense would be more productive than the offense, and for one week, against Tampa Bay, they appeared to be correct.
However, the mighty have fallen... the Saints lead the NFL in penalty yardage with 508 yards and have continually been burned by the deep ball.
The Saints travel to the Windy City this weekend to face Nick Foles and a Bears offense with an identity crisis. Chicago lost their star running back Tarik Cohen earlier this season to injury and did not look the same since the former NC A&T standout went down. They currently rank last in rushing yards. To make matters worse, the Bears also may be without their leading WR Allen Robinson (concussion) on Sunday.
With six games now in the books and the team returning to health, the Saints defense may have received a gift from the scheduling "Gods" as they face an offense that ranks in the bottom six in points scored and yards per game. If there is a game to get the juices flowing and fix what has been a lack-luster defense, Sunday is the game.
The Bears are averaging under 20 points per game, could miss their number one target, and have failed to establish any rushing threat. A confidence booster is right in front of the Saints, and the defense must take advantage of it if they still want to be considered Super Bowl contenders.
Can Murray post back-to-back great outings at Soldier Field?
A year ago, the Saints entered Soldier Field without their long-term field general, Drew Brees leading the offense because of a UCL injury in his right thumb. Teddy Bridgewater led the Saints onto the field, but Latavius Murray led the team to victory. In last season's Week 7 matchup, the 2016 Pro-Bowl RB ran the ball 27 times for 119 yards and 2 TDs as the Saints rolled past the Bears, 36-25.
So what can Murray do for an encore? Murray can be the focal point in the Saints offense. They face a vicious pass rush from Mack and his crew. The game is forecasted to be in the low-mid 40s, and weather and wind may affect Brees in the passing game.
The "change of pace" back will be counted on to grind out tough yards between the tackles. If useful, the strategy could break down the Bears' interior and spring chunk plays for the Saints throughout the game.
The Saints do not need another 100+yard and 2 TD day out of Murray; they need what he has been all year - a consistent, hard-nosed, and slippery. It was a year ago at the same venue that Saints fans began to appreciate Murray. In 2020, nothing is stopping him from another breakout game against the Bears.
Do the Saints have a "Pretty Win" ready against the Bears?
New Orleans is riding high into Chicago on a winning streak. While a win is a win, it can easily be said that New Orleans has won “ugly” over the past few weeks. They need a complete game in all three phases - which has been hard to come by. Whether that is a result of injury, lack of chemistry, or the trials of the season as a whole, at some point, Sean Payton's team needs to begin to play their best football.
While glimpses of their best football have been shown at times in previous October games, Sunday presents a new opportunity to “win pretty” and show the NFL the Saints remain still are among the NFC's best.
Let's not be mistaken; walking out of Chicago with a victory this weekend is the ultimate goal, regardless of how it looks. Yet, a dominant show can and will do a lot for this group. The 2020 version of the Saints have faced more trials and tribulations since June than some teams will face throughout the season.
While victories are the best medicine to an ailing football team, big victories can help you feel you're back to normal. That feeling of “I'm back to 100%, healthy, and confident” is what the Saints need. On Sunday, they can cleanse their palate with a “pretty win.”
- Saints X-Factors in Week 8
- First Look: Saints vs. Bears
- Saints Defense vs. Bears Offense Preview
- Week 8: Saints Wednesday Injury Report
- Saints Defense Will Face Top 3rd Down and Red-Zone Offenses
- Saints Have a Major Safety Issue
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