coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
On 10/01/2013 05:17 PM in NFL

New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears: Preview and Pick

New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears: Preview and Pick

The New Orleans Saints have proved once again that as long as they have Drew Brees under center, they will be a Super Bowl contender. On Monday night Brees and tight end Jimmy Graham were unstoppable as they devoured the Miami Dolphins. Now they will have to play a great game on the road in the Windy City against the Chicago Bears.

New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears Odds

The NFL betting line for this game opened up with the Bears and Saints as a Pick ‘em. That line has moved to (-1) in favor of the Bears as they are the home team for this game. Although the line is in favor of the Bears at this point, look for a change as the public is hammering the Saints at over 70 percent after watching the impressive win on Monday Night. Make sure to check your top rated sportsbooks leading up to kickoff as the line will change.

If the Bears have one mission this year it is to stop Drew Brees and the Saints passing attack. Drew Brees threw for 400 yards for the 10th time in his career Monday, the second-most games in NFL history behind Dan Marino (13). Since joining the Saints in 2006, Brees has double the amount of 400-yard passing games as the next closest quarterback in the league.

The Bears will also need inspired play by Jay Cutler. Cutler entered the game against the Lions with a 7-1 record in large part because he had thrown only one interception. He tripled that total in one afternoon, fumbled for a fourth turnover and was sacked three times after being taken down that many times combined in three games this season.The Bears will need to protect Cutler if they have any hopes of winning.

The latest NFL trends for this game reveal that the Bears may have a tough time beating the Saints, even on a short week. The Saints are 14-5 against the spread (ATS) in their last 19 games following a win, 11-4 ATS against a team with a winning record and 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games after accumulating more than 250 yards passing in their previous game.

The Bears are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games after allowing more than 150 yards rushing in their previous game, 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games after accumulating more than 350 total yards in their previous game and 2-6-1 ATS in their last 9 games overall.

New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears Pick

With plenty of time to go before kickoff so, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/02/2013 03:05 PM

Four games into Sean Payton’s return from NFL exile, the Saints look a lot more like the 13-3 team he coached two seasons ago than the 7-9 team he was banned from associating with last year.

Drew Brees, with help from familiar targets Marques Colston, Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham, is leading a quick-strike offense that has put up big numbers in consecutive lopsided victories. An aggressive defense is creating momentum-changing turnovers and getting timely stops.

The result is a 4-0 start, an early 2 1/2 game lead in the NFC South Division and an energized fan base that rocked the Superdome as it has in past playoff seasons during a 38-17 victory over previously unbeaten Miami on Monday night.

“It feels good,” Saints right tackle Zach Strief said. “To me, the last couple of games, we felt that rhythm. We talk about getting into a rhythm and getting into a tempo and it’s based on things working and execution. I think we’re starting to feel that.”

Saints appear to be playing about as well as they could have hoped as they prepare to play next Sundy in Chicago (3-1).

Just don’t expect to hear Payton or his players start to congratulate themselves yet.

“We all try to be, as coaches, very critical of ourselves, just like we’d be of players,” Payton said. “I don’t know that there’s ever any complete satisfaction. It’s not like a Snickers bar, so I think you’re always looking to improve.”

New Orleans has not won in Chicago’s Sodlier Field since Jim Haslett was a first-year Saints head coach in 2000. Under Payton, the Saints are 0-3 there, losing twice in the regular season and once in the 2006-07 NFC championship.

Taking a cue from Payton, receiver Marques Colston talked about the importance of not letting the “noise” distract the Saints from the immediate task at hand.

Such “noise” would include discussions about the Saints’ high rankings in key statistical areas on both sides of the ball. The offense is fourth in net yards, averaging 491.5 yards per game. The defense is sixth yards allowed at 304.5 per game.

In scoring, the Saints are tied for seventh with 27 points per game, while in scoring defense they are fifth, allowing 13.8 points per game.

New Orleans is also one of only two remaining unbeaten teams in the NFC, along with Seattle. That brings inevitable questions about whether the Saints now consider themselves leading contenders to reach the Super Bowl. Those are questions they’d rather not answer right now.

“You just got to tune out everything outside the locker room and focus on going to play a good opponent this week,” Colston said. “You’ve got to fight against human nature at all times, and 4-0 was obviously the start that we were looking, for but there’s still a lot of football yet to be played. So it’s focusing on the reason why we are sitting at 4-0 and just continuing to try to get better.”

The reasons for the Saints’ fast start include Brees’ consistently prolific production.

That is one subject which inspires Payton to hand out more compliments than usual. Brees’ ability to read defenses distinguishes him as a quarterback, Payton said. The coach pointed out that Sproles was Brees’ third option on a 13-yard touchdown Monday night.

“Drew did a good job of kind of seeing how the play was being defensed and threw it wide and outside to Darren,” to prevent a closing defender from getting to the ball, Payton explained. “So from a spacing standpoint, he’s really good at seeing how the defense is deployed.”

Colston, whose 298 yards receiving has him on pace for his seventh 1,000 yard season, said Brees keeps making the exceptional look routine.

“It’s really not a surprise for us any more to see the kind of games like he had last night when he’s so precise,” Colston said. “You lose sight of the fact that what he does on a day-to-day basis is really extraordinary.”

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/02/2013 03:06 PM

Take a look at some of the defensive statistics, and the New Orleans Saints are right where they want to be.

After racking up four turnovers Monday night, the Saints No. 2 in the NFC in turnover ratio, with 10 takeaways to five giveaways.

"I was pleased with the turnovers last night," said Saints coach Sean Payton. "That was very significant in the game, and yet we still work on creating those and we still work on ball security and protecting the ball offensively."

And yet the undefeated Saints don't quite have time to stay pleased with themselves after their 38-17 thrashing of the Miami Dolphins on Monday night. They'll travel to Soldier Field on Sunday to play the Chicago Bears, giving them a short week.

Historically, the Saints have struggled at Soldier Field, last winning there in 2000, and going 0-3 at the venue under Payton.

Regardless of the history, it'll be a tough matchup, Payton said. The Bears are tied with the Saints in turnover ratio. Although the Saints coughed up the ball only once against the Dolphins, when the game was safely out of reach, Payton said it's something he's considered. "We're playing a team this week that's very good at taking the ball away," Payton said. "Historically probably in the last however many years you want to go back, they've taken the ball away better than anyone."

Saints wide receiver Marques Colston said he knows one of the messages going into Sunday will be keeping that turnover ratio in the positive category.

"We say it time and time again, it's the number one stat in football," he said.

And the other? Keeping a level head with a 5-0 start possibly in their sights.

"I think the toughest thing is finding exactly what you need to win on that given Sunday," said cornerback Jabari Greer. "Because what won Monday night isn't necessarily what's going to win on this coming up Sunday."

Added Payton: "Our players understand that by no means are we a finished product. We've got a lot of work to do, especially after looking at that tape. There's a handful of things we need to get cleaned up."

Notable Statistics: Tight end Jimmy Graham is ranked No. 2 in the NFL with 458 receiving yards, trailing only the Atlanta Falcons' Julio Jones, who has 481. Graham is tied with Denver Broncos' Wes Welker for a league leading six touchdowns. He is also tied for No. 2 with eight plays of 20 or more yards.

Quarterback Drew Brees is No. 2 in passing yards (1,434) and No. 3 in touchdowns (10).

The Saints are No. 6 in total defense, allowing 304.5 yards-per-game and No. 5 in passing defense, allowing an average of 192.3 passing yards

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/02/2013 03:08 PM

In terms of adversity, the Bears' 2013 season is akin to an airline losing your luggage on a trip to Hawaii. You can sulk away a day or two in a luxury resort, or break down and buy a few items at the gift shop and get on with paradise.

In other words, it's time to cowabunga up, Bears fans.

Teams with real adversity are the likes of the Giants and Falcons, who have seriously underachieved, or the Buccaneers, who are on the verge of mutiny. Those are calamitous situations. The Bears have started better than anyone anticipated and are on pace for a 12-4 season. Not real adversity.

Sunday in Detroit, the Bears are one of only four NFC teams with winning records. The others are the Lions (3-1), Seahawks (4-0) and Saints (4-0), who bring their perfect record to Soldier Field on Sunday but will be coming off a short week after their Monday night victory over the Dolphins — and aren't bringing their dome with them.

Sure, quarterback Jay Cutler had his worst performance of the year in Detroit, throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble that the Lions picked up for a touchdown. Cutler owned it. Coach Marc Trestman said everything was correctable. The second interception was especially crazy as Cutler was in the air when he heaved a throw downfield to Brandon Marshall in what might have been the first "jump bomb'' in NFL history.

The good news is the Bears are back home, where Cutler has been at his best and where Saints quarterback Drew Brees never has won, going 0-4, including 0-3 with the Saints. Of course, one of those games was the NFC championship and the other two were in December, so the Bears might be hoping the projected 62-degree kickoff temperature is about 30 degrees optimistic.

A healthy dose of Matt Forte, who needs about 10 more touches than he got against the Lions, would go a long way toward keeping Brees and company off the field. The Bears need to take the ball if they win the coin flip and dedicate themselves to running it early and often.

A huge advantage is the presence of offensive coordinator and line coach Aaron Kromer, who worked as an assistant in New Orleans for five years and served as interim head coach for the first six games last year.

There was talk in Week 2 of J'Marcus Webb aiding the Vikings with the Bears' line calls, and there were questions after the Lions game of whether Israel Idonije was helping steal defensive calls. That pales to the kind of information Kromer must possess.

The Saints no doubt will change their signals as a precaution, but Kromer has excellent insight into their personnel and the likes and dislikes of particular players, including Brees. He knows what makes Brees uncomfortable, what has worked against him and what makes that offense struggle.

It would help if the Bears could get their defensive line playing better. The lack of production has been confounding. Even with Julius Peppers coming off his best game of the season — five solo tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and three quarterback pressures — the top three pass rushers have shockingly little to show for the opening quarter of the season. Peppers, Corey Wootton and the disappointing Shea McClellin have combined for 21/2 sacks and nine quarterback pressures.

Teams are getting the ball out quickly against the Bears, with even the Lions bypassing their downfield attack most of the afternoon. And Brees gets the ball out as fast as anyone; the Saints' short passing game effectively serves as their running game. Regardless, the Bears are giving away huge chunks of yards. They rank 20th in defense, allowing 384 yards per game, and 26th in points allowed at 28.5 per game.

The Bears are dangerously thin at a few spots, especially on the defensive line after Henry Melton's season-ending knee injury. Anything you need to know about their depth on the line was revealed when Landon Cohen signed Friday and got 14 snaps Sunday ahead of undrafted free agent Zach Minter, who was not activated for the game. Cohen played a couple games with the Cowboys, but he still went from the street to the field with the Bears.

Now that may be adversity, but perhaps of the Bears' own making.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/03/2013 02:41 PM

The Lions keep trying to kill irony, and it simply will not die.

First serial penalty getter Ndamukong Suh told his teammates they had to stop getting so many penalties, and now the man in charge of one of the most-arrested franchises off the field and aggressive on it is calling someone else “thugs.”

Specifically, Lions vice chairman Bill Ford referred to the Bears that way, during a speech at the team’s annual Courage House dinner last night.

“It was really alive, and it was alive when we played those same bunch of thugs on Monday Night a couple [years ago],” Ford said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “When this place gets going it’s electric and we do have wonderful fans. Our fans are amazing and we would love to pay them back and bring home a winner, and I love the way this team is playing right now.”

The audience apparently laughed at the remark, and a team spokesman called Birkett after the fact to underscore the humorous nature of the comment.

Just as someone should call and remind Ford about what people living in glass houses should and should not do with their rock collections.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/03/2013 02:41 PM

Bears punter Adam Podlesh had a rough day on Sunday in Detroit.

He averaged 28.8 yards on his five punts and helped gift the Lions with great field position when he hit a line drive right at Lions returner Micheal Spurlock, who returned it 57 yards to set the Lions up for the touchdown that would give them the lead for good in the second quarter. Podlesh said after the game that he was disappointed in himself and it seems the Bears feel the same way.

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports that the Bears worked out as many as six punters on Tuesday, including veterans Chris Kluwe, Brian Moorman and Mat McBriar. Kluwe lost a competition to Marquette King in Oakland this summer while Moorman did the same in Pittsburgh before Drew Butler, who beat him out, got cut as well a few days later. McBriar punted with the Eagles last year, but has been unemployed since they cut him in March.

Biggs reports that Butler, who is the son of longtime Bears kicker Kevin Butler, is one of the other punters who showed off their skills on Tuesday, along with Tress Way.

Should one of them wind up getting a job in Chicago, they’ll get the added bonus of not having to kick to Devin Hester anywhere but practice.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/03/2013 02:43 PM

Just a year ago, the Saints were in a self-induced tailspin, stumbling like an over-served tourist on Bourbon Street.

They abruptly went from America’s defy-all-odds Super Bowl darlings to a group of bounty-crazed bandits. The fleur de lis was tarnished, and the team was 0-4.

“Bountygate” was an unprecedented event for the NFL league office. Already accused of being willfully ignorant to the harmful effects of the violent collisions its sport creates, the decision makers on Park Avenue had no choice but to respond harshly in the name of player safety.

The discipline was swift and severe. Player suspensions, forfeiture of draft picks, a $500,000 fine, a six-game ban for assistant coach Joe Vitt, an eight-game ban for general manager Mickey Loomis, an indefinite suspension for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and a one-year suspension of head coach Sean Payton.

The last on that list was the back breaker. Payton was forced to detach himself from the contender he built and watch them flounder. But what a difference a year makes. The Saints are 4-0 and look like a Super Bowl contender.

Quarterback Drew Brees is an elite performer and a coach on the field, but undoubtedly, Payton is the Saints leader. This partnership started in 2006 when Payton – a first time head coach – took a $60M gamble on Brees. In the final game of the previous season, Brees suffered a 360-degree tear of his right rotator cuff. Eight years and a Super Bowl trophy later, the move has certainly paid off.

Brees overcomes physical shortcomings with deft footwork, keen pocket presence, a mastery of the playbook, and rapid-yet-precise pre-snap reads. On some plays, Brees will make all five of his reads, forcing a defense to defend every receiver and area on the field.

Together, Brees’ flawless execution and Payton’s game-day prowess has produced an offensive juggernaut. Payton’s a master of deception who creates conflict by deploying a variety of personnel groupings and formations to scheme advantageous matchups.

The NFL’s most successful passing attacks have three legitimate options to work with, as short of sacrificing its pass rush, a defense can’t double team all of them. Brees’s top three targets are tight end Jimmy Graham, wide receiver Marques Colston, and running back Darren Sproles.

Graham and Sproles are the most difficult matchups in the NFL at their respective positions. At 6’7, 260 pounds, Graham is too fast for linebackers and too big for cornerbacks or safeties. A former college basketball player, he’s skilled at boxing out defenders to win jump-ball situations.

In the red zone, Graham is nearly impossible to defend. He frequently lines up as the single receiver in a 3×1 alignment to get single coverage, typically against a safety. Play him with outside leverage, he’ll beat you on the slant (ask Patrick Peterson). Play him with inside leverage, he’ll beat you on the fade (ask Yeremiah Bell).

Payton has shown a preference for running backs who are receiving threats and dangerous in space. First it was Reggie Bush, now it’s quick-as-a-hiccup Darren Sproles. With defenses concerned about getting beat deep, they tend to sit back in two-deep shells. This creates voids and creases underneath and on the perimeter for Sproles to quickly navigate on screens, flares, and draw plays.

Colston doesn’t possess blazing speed or quick-twitch suddenness, but for an angular athlete, he’s a skilled route runner with a wide catching radius. He works best out of the slot, where his size can be utilized in between the numbers. Rookie burner Kenny Stills, zone-killer Lance Moore, Robert Meachem, and Nick Toon are also targets in Brees’ arsenal.

The Saints aren’t without flaw. Their running game has yet to get on track, which is a combination of poor interior blocking and a back yet to distinguish himself. This has forced the Saints to become a spread attack, which limits Payton’s play-calling options. A big part of their attack is throwing out of tight formations, but without a running attack, they can’t keep defenses honest.

A stalled running game will also affect them on the road. The Saints are virtually unstoppable in the controlled conditions of the Super Dome. But a high-volume passing attack in a hostile outdoor environment will falter on days where protection is an issue.

The best formula for a defense to have a chance against the Saints is to play Cover-2 Man and Zone. Trust your team’s ability to stop the run with seven, and get pressure on the quarterback with four – blitzing Brees is a bad plan.

One aspect of his team Payton was certainly stewing about during his absence was the defense. In 2012, they were a record-setting unit. In a bad way. They allowed an almost unfathomable 7,042 yards. Consequently, Payton jettisoned Steve Spagnuolo for Rob Ryan.

Hiring Ryan made sense. After bottoming out, they needed to be reinvigorated and the gregarious Ryan is a great match. Play with an edge, rally to the ball, tighten up in the red zone, and force turnovers. With the offense able to build an early lead, opponents are forced to play catch up, which plays right into Ryan’s hands.

Ryan’s roots are in a 3-4 base, but the Saints have endured a litany of injuries early on, forcing him to get creative with how he gets his best 11 defenders on the field. Seven starters have missed games this season, three of which – linebackers Will Smith and Victor Butler, and cornerback Patrick Robinson – have been lost for the season.

So far, Ryan’s most successful combination has been a nickel package in a 4-2-5 alignment with three safeties on the field. But Ryan’s hybrid scheme has also shown a 2-4-5 and a 3-3-5 mixed in with traditional 4-3 and 3-4 looks.

Historically, Ryan likes to play nickel and bring pressure from his back seven, but so far, he hasn’t had to. The biggest reason for the Saints defensive turnaround has been the emerging talent on their young defensive line. Cam Jordan and Junior Galette are dominating singles off the edge. Jordan – a former first round pick – has been one of the most productive pass rushers in the league.

On the interior, the Saints have two space-eating two-gappers in Akiem Hicks and John Jenkins. Jenkins is a rookie from Georgia, who projects as the future anchor 0-technique. Hicks originally committed to LSU, but was declared ineligible for receiving improper benefits, so he landed at the University of Regina in Canada. Hicks has surprisingly light feet and a massive frame with long arms, and is versatile to play any technique on the line.

At inside linebacker, Curtis Lofton is an every down player and a reliable run defender, as is David Hawthorne. The Saints are near the bottom in the league in yards per attempt, but they’ve held two opponents to under 90 yards.

Given their woes in the secondary in 2012, the Saints made a strong push to improve the talent level. They signed cornerback Keenan Lewis (Pittsburgh) and spent their first round pick on safety Kenny Vaccaro (Texas).

Vaccaro’s versatility has paid immediate dividends. He’s seen time at linebacker and deep safety, but is making the biggest impact as a nickel corner. While he’s been misaligned at time and had lapses – common rookie mistakes – Vaccaro had a hand in the play of the year so far. Vaccaro tipped a pass intended for Tony Gonzalez in the end zone that ended up being intercepted by Roman Harper, preserving a Week 1 win against the Falcons.

In order to beat the Saints, an opponent must establish their ground game, which can be done against this group. In doing so, it would force personnel changes by Ryan to get more box defenders, and in turn keep the Saints offense on the sideline. The Saints are a different team on the road, but they’re brimming with confidence right now. With an offense that seemingly scores at will, they should be.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/04/2013 01:33 PM

The New Orleans Saints are doing all they can not to get caught up in their best start in four seasons.

If they are to remain undefeated Sunday, the Saints must end a three-game road skid against the Chicago Bears, who are looking to bounce back from their first loss.

A year ago, New Orleans (4-0) was winless through four games under interim coach Aaron Kromer as the bounty situation and suspension of coach Sean Payton hung over the franchise.

The Saints, though, are again comfortable, confident and back to their winning ways with Payton having returned and Rob Ryan in charge of a much-improved defense.

They also aren't planning on letting anything hinder their focus on maintaining their best start since opening 13-0 during the Super Bowl season of 2009.

"You just got to tune out everything outside the locker room and focus on going to play a good opponent this week," said receiver Marques Colston, who has 21 receptions for 298 yards and a touchdown. "You've got to fight against human nature at all times, and 4-0 was obviously the start that we were looking, for but there's still a lot of football yet to be played.

"So it's focusing on the reason why we are sitting at 4-0 and just continuing to try to get better."

After totaling 39 points to beat Atlanta and Tampa Bay by a combined eight points, New Orleans has outscored Arizona and previously undefeated Miami 69-24 the last two weeks.

Drew Brees threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns, including a pair to tight end Jimmy Graham, in a 38-17 rout of the Dolphins on Monday.

Completing 66.9 percent of his passes and coming off his 10th 400-yard passing game, Brees has thrown seven TDs and one interception the last two games after recording three of each in the first two. He completed 57.6 percent of his passes during the Saints' 0-4 start last season.

Graham has 23 receptions for 413 yards and five touchdowns in the last three games. Versatile running back Darren Sproles scored twice and made seven catches for 114 on Monday.

"To me, the last couple of games, we felt that rhythm," right tackle Zach Strief said. "We talk about getting into a rhythm and getting into a tempo and it's based on things working and execution. I think we're starting to feel that."

The Saints rank fourth in the NFL with 419.5 yards per game and are tied for seventh with 27.0 points a contest.

After giving up an average of 440.1 yards and 28.4 points in 2012, New Orleans ranks sixth with an average of 304.5 yards allowed and fifth at 13.8 points under Ryan.

"We all try to be, as coaches, very critical of ourselves, just like we'd be of players," Payton said. "I don't know that there's ever any complete satisfaction. It's not like a Snickers bar, so I think you're always looking to improve."

Though New Orleans beat the Bears 30-13 at the Superdome in the teams' last meeting Sept. 18, 2011, Payton is 0-3 with the Saints at Soldier Field, the most recent of those matchups coming in 2008. The slide began with a 39-14 defeat in the NFC championship game during the 2006 season.

Brees hasn't been at his best in Chicago either, completing 55.7 percent of his passes with seven TDs and six interceptions while going 0-4 there.

Chicago (3-1) rode a precise offense under new coordinator Kromer and its typically opportunistic defense to wins over Cincinnati, Minnesota and Pittsburgh, but it struggled on both sides of the ball in a 40-32 loss at Detroit on Sunday.

Jay Cutler threw two touchdowns but also had three interceptions and lost a fumble that was returned for a TD. The Bears defense forced three more turnovers but allowed Reggie Bush to run for 139 yards.

"I don't think what happened (last Sunday) means that it has to happen next week or the week after," coach Marc Trestman said. "It could, but we're working to prevent those situations from happening. We got guys committed to do that."

That starts with Cutler, who has completed a career-high 64.2 percent of his passes but has been intercepted six times and lost two fumbles.

"We sat in the meeting and Jay expressed his sense of accountability," Trestman said.

"We're just going to work together on the corrections. We've got to get back and work on fundamentals and techniques, not only at the quarterback position but throughout our team."

Poor tackling Sunday plagued a defense that's forced 14 turnovers but ranks 20th with 384.0 yards allowed per game and 26th with 28.5 points given up.

Chicago running back Matt Forte ranks among the NFL leaders with 120.0 total yards a contest. He caught 10 passes for 117 yards in the 2011 meeting with New Orleans.

Cutler, sacked six times in that contest, has thrown three TDs and one pick while going 1-1 against the Saints.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/05/2013 09:44 AM

Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (calf), safety Roman Harper (knee), running back Mark Ingram (toe), wide receiver Lance Moore (hand) and defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker (knee) are all out for New Orleans.

Cornerback Keenan Lewis (hip) is questionable, giving him a chance at being in the lineup to slow down probable Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall (foot). Cornerback Charles Tillman (groin, knee) is listed as questionable once again this week.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/06/2013 07:43 AM

Pick Bears PK

The Saints are a different team on the road, Bears get to Brees and win.