Week 8 Preview: Bears at Saints – October 29, 2017

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Week 8 Preview: Bears at Saints – October 29, 2017

Game Previews

Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Pace, who worked for the New Orleans Saints from 2001 to 2014, returns to his old stomping grounds with a rebuilding team trending in the right direction.

The team is 2-1 with rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, but Pace’s other acquisitions are doing the heavy lifting. Running backs like Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen have paced the offense, while Akiem Hicks, Leonard Floyd, Eddie Jackson have been the biggest playmakers for a defense that desperately needed them.

Those players could lead the Bears to a 4-4 record going into the bye, which would mark the first time at .500 for Chicago since Week 6 in 2014.

“Never Tell Me The Odds:”

The Bears (3-4) are 9-point road underdogs (with the over/under set at 47) against the Saints (4-2), according to Bovada. Chicago is 5-2 against the spread, with the under coming in five of the team’s seven games.

New Orleans is 3-0 against the spread as a favorite and has won four straight after starting 0-2. It’s safe to bet on a high-scoring affair when the Saints are playing, as the over has come in four of the team’s six games.

Series History:

The Bears are 15-14 all-time against the Saints, which includes a pair of wins in playoff games. However, recent history hasn’t been too kind to Chicago, which has lost three straight against the Saints and four-in-a-row at the SuperDome. The Bears haven’t won a road game against the Saints since 2005, when the game was played at LSU’s Tiger Stadium.

Game Time, Broadcast Info, Officiating Crew:

Location: Mercedes-Benz SuperDome, New Orleans

Broadcast Info: noon, FOX-TV (Justin Kutcher, Chris Spielman, Jennifer Hale), WBBM-AM 780, WCFS-FM 105.9 (Jeff Joniak, Tom Thayer, Zach Zaidman)

Referee: Carl Cheffers

Expected Starters and Lineups:

Bears Offense Expected Starters:

  • QB Mitch Trubisky
  • RB Jordan Howard
  • FB Michael Burton
  • WR Tanner Gentry
  • WR Tre McBride
  • TE Dion Sims
  • LT Charles Leno Jr.
  • LG Josh Sitton
  • C Cody Whitehair
  • RG Kyle Long
  • RT Bobby Massie

Bears Defense Expected Starters:

  • DE Akiem Hicks
  • NT Eddie Goldman
  • DE Mitch Unrein
  • OLB Pernell McPhee
  • ILB Christian Jones
  • ILB Danny Trevathan
  • OLB Leonard Floyd
  • CB Marcus Cooper
  • CB Prince Amukamara
  • FS Eddie Jackson
  • SS Adrian Amos

Bears Specialists: 

  • Connor Barth (kicker), Pat O’Donnell (punter, holder), Andrew DePaola (long snapper), Tarik Cohen (kick returner, punt returner)

Saints Offense Expected Starters:

  • QB Drew Brees
  • RB Mark Ingram
  • FB Zach Line
  • WR Michael Thomas
  • WR Ted Ginn Jr.
  • TE Coby Fleener
  • LT Terron Armstead
  • LG Andrus Peat
  • C Max Unger
  • RG Senio Kelemete
  • RT Ryan Ramczyk

Saints Defense Expected Starters:

  • DE Cameron Jordan
  • DT Sheldon Rankins
  • DT Tyeler Davison
  • DE Alex Okafor
  • WLB Craig Robertson
  • MLB Manti Te’o
  • SLB A.J. Klein
  • CB Ken Crawley
  • CB Marshon Lattimore
  • SS Kenny Vaccaro
  • FS Marcus Williams

Saints Specialists:

  • Wil Lutz (kicker), Thomas Morstead (punter, holder), Zach Wood (long snapper), Alvin Kamara (kick returns), Ted Ginn Jr. (punt returns)

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Bears – Offense

Tight ends caught touchdown passes from Mitch Trubisky in each of his first two starts, but Dion Sims and Zach Miller were held out of the end zone in Week 8. New Orleans’ defense has held opposing tight ends out of the end zone since Week 3, but Rob Gronkowski caught six of nine targets, gained 116 receiving yards, and scored a touchdown back in Week 2. If the Bears are going to open up the offense, Trubisky connecting with Miller in the middle of the field seems like a good place to start.

Trubisky could also target Tanner Gentry, but it could be risky. Gentry could be matched up against rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who owns a 94.1 grade at Pro Football Focus. More on that in a bit. It will be interesting to see if Trubisky dares target an undrafted rookie free agent when he is up against one of the league’s top corners.

Chicago Bears – Defense

Not only is Akiem Hicks returning to New Orleans for a revenge game, he’ll see some time against a backup right guard. In a game where the Bears defense could use all possible breaks, Hicks going against Senio Kelemete (66.7 grade via PFF) is a matchup slanted in the defense’s favor. Hicks has an 86.5 grade through seven games, which is the 16th best among interior defenders.

Prince Amukamara has lined up as the right cornerback on 99 percent of snaps this season. He’ll likely draw Michael Thomas, who lines up on the left side of the offense’s formation on 47 percent of his snaps. The Bears could take a page out of the Detroit Lions playbook and use Amukamara to shadow Thomas. Detroit deployed Darius Slay on Thomas in Week 6, where he shadowed him on 71.4 percent of his routes and allowed just one catch and four yards.

New Orleans Saints – Offense

Despite entering Sunday with a 100.0 passer rating, Drew Brees is human and has thrown four interceptions in the last two weeks. The Lions limited him to 186 passing yards, but he bounced back with 331 yards against the Packers – though it came in a game where he threw more interceptions (2) than touchdowns (1). Next up for Brees is a Bears defense that has forced six turnovers in the last two weeks.

Terron Armstrong missed practice time with a shoulder injury, but will play on Sunday. He’s the left tackle who is responsible for protecting Brees’ blindside. Armstead missed four weeks, but owns a 75.1 pass blocking grade that would rank 24th among PFF’s 69 qualifying tackles since returning. McPhee has seen his playing time increase since Week 1, and figures to get an extended look if the Saints’ passing tendencies continue.

New Orleans Saints – Defense

Marshon Lattimore is PFF’s highest-graded cornerback with an elite 94.1 grade. There was a time when Lattimore, who visited the Bears in April and was often mocked to go to the Bears at three, was on our radar as a potential No. 3 overall pick. Lattimore slipped to 11th, where the Saints pounced on the opportunity to draft a potential lock-down corner. So far, he hasn’t disappointed.

Defensive end Cameron Jordan (92.5) is the site’s highest graded edge defender. Jordan has been a disruptive force, coming up with five sacks and two forced fumbles in six games. He even has an interception he returned for a touchdown. Jordan often lines up on the left side of the defensive formation, which means right tackle Bobby Massie will be responsible for slowing down a top pass rusher.


Luis Medina

Luis is the Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation Bears, and you can find him on Twitter at @lcm1986.