Ah, New Orleans. The Big Easy. Sweet Lady Gumbo. Old … Swampy.
Whatever you call it, that’s where the Chicago Bears are playing to open their postseason run on Super Wild Card Sunday.
The New Orleans Saints provide the competition in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Meaning that Sunday’s matchup is a rematch. In fact, it will be the third time these two teams have met in the last two years. The first two games didn’t end well for the Bears. And that Chicago was unable to make the most of home-field advantage in each of those games is bothersome. It’ll stick in my craw that the Bears were unable to beat a backup in 2019 or that they coughed up a sizable lead against the Saints a year later.
However, 2021 is a new year. Everyone’s record is 0-0. It’s a clean slate for all. And if you’re not inspired enough to see that as an opportunity to write a new chapter with a better ending, then this ain’t for you.
“Never Tell Me The Odds”
The DraftKings SportsBook lists the Bears (8-8) as 10-point underdogs against the Saints (12-4). Over/under: 47.
The Saints lead 17-13 in regular season meetings, but the Bears are 2-0 when they meet in the playoffs.
Game Time, Broadcast Info, Officiating Crew:
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Broadcast Info: Sunday, January 10 at 3:40 p.m. CT on CBS (Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Jay Feely), Amazon Prime (Hannah Storm, Andrea Kremer), Nickelodeon (Noah Eagle, Nate Burleson, Gabrielle Navaeh Green, Lex Lumpkin), WBBM-AM 780 and WCFS-FM 105.9 (Jeff Joniak, Tom Thayer, Mark Grote), Westwood One (Kevin Kugler, James Lofton)
Officials: Alex Kemp (referee), Dan Ferrell (umpire), Dana McKenzie (down judge), Greg Bradley (line judge), Nate Jones (field judge), Dave Hawkshaw (side judge), Scott Helverson (back judge), Mike Chase (replay official)
Expected Starters and Lineups:
Bears Expected Starters:
• QB Mitchell Trubisky
• RB David Montgomery
• WRs Allen Robinson II, Darnell Mooney, Anthony Miller
• TE Jimmy Graham
• LT Charles Leno Jr., LG Cody Whitehair, C Sam Mustipher, RG Alex Bars, RT Germain Ifedi
• DT Akiem Hicks, NT Bilal Nichols, DE Brent Urban
• OLBs Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn
• ILBs Josh Woods, Danny Trevathan
• CBs Kyle Fuller, Kindle Vildor
• FS Eddie Jackson
• SS Tashaun Gipson Sr.
• Cairo Santos (kicker), Pat O’Donnell (punter, holder), Patrick Sales (long snapper), DeAndre Carter (punt returns), Cordarrelle Patterson (kick returns)
Saints Expected Starters:
• QB Drew Brees
• RB Alvin Kamara
• WRs Emmanuel Sanders, Michael Thomas
• TE Jared Cook, Adam Trautman
• LT Terron Armstead, LG Andrus Peat, C Erik McCoy, RG Cesar Ruiz, RT Ryan Ramczyk
• LDE Cameron Jordan, LDT David Onyemata, NT Malcolm Brown, RDE
Trey Hendrickson Marcus Davenport
• SLB Zack Baun, MLB Alex Anzalone, WLB Damario Davis
• CBs Janoris Jenkins, Marshon Lattimore, P.J. Williams
• S Malcolm Jenkins
• Will Lutz (kicker), Thomas Morstead (punter, holder), Zach Wood (long snappers), Tommylee Lewis (kick and punt returns)
Three Bears …
David Montgomery has his work cut out for him as he goes against a Saints defense that allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs in 2020. And yet, this is the same New Orleans defense that has allowed six rushing touchdowns over the final four games of the season. Montgomery is on a roll, having scored 8 total touchdowns in six games with Bill Lazor calling plays. In other words, expect Montgomery to be a focal point of the offense.
Bilal Nichols did not register a stat in the Bears’ loss to the Packers last week. No sacks, tackles, quarterback hits, tackles-for-loss, or anything else. It was a bad time for a clunker, to be sure. But the postseason provides a clean slate for a player who picked up 3 sacks and 6 quarterback hits in four games leading up to the season finale. With starting guard Nick Easton out of the lineup with a concussion, Nichols could find himself battling rookie Cesar Ruiz. Advantage: Nichols?
Khalil Mack has 2.5 sacks, 3 tackles-for-loss, 4 QB Hits, a forced fumble, and a recovery in four games since putting up a nothing-burger against the Lions. The Bears need the Mack who showed up the last four weeks to show up in the playoffs. They need a game-wrecking pass-rusher who can chip in against the run and neutralize an offense. If Mack shows up in a big way, as he did when the two teams played earlier in the season, the Bears have a puncher’s chance at pulling off the upset.