New Orleans Saints (4-0) at Chicago Bears (3-1)
The Saints and Dolphins both went into Monday Night’s game at 3-0, after going 7-9 last season, but at the end of the day, it was the Saints who proved they were for real, while the Dolphins looked like a team that was never very good to begin with. The Saints obviously dominated in a 21 point win and it’s not like the Dolphins were some scrubs. They’re a decent football team. Right now, I think the Saints are the 3rd best team in the NFL and could compete with Seattle or Denver on a neutral field.
They are 3rd in the NFL in terms of converting 1st and 10 for a subsequent set of first downs, converting on 81%. A strong offense is nothing new in New Orleans. Even with Sean Payton gone last year, the Saints were 3rd in the NFL in points scored behind only the Patriots and Broncos. However, they are also playing very well on defense, allowing opponents to convert 1st and 10 on just 66% of chances, 3rd best in the NFL. This is a huge change from last year, when they allowed the 2nd most points per game in the league and surrendered the most yards in NFL history.
Rob Ryan has really turned things around as the Saints have held all 4 of their opponents to 17 points or fewer, something they did just 3 times all last season. Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan have broken out as among the best players in the NFL at their respective positions in their new 3-4 defense, with Jordan even playing like an All-Pro. As a result, they are +15% in differential in terms of how often they are converting for a subsequent set of downs, as opposed to how often their opponents are. That’s the best in the NFL through 4 games. The Saints also should be able to continue their momentum from their huge Monday Night Football win into this week. Since 2002, teams are 29-13 ATS off Monday Night Football wins of 21 points or more.
The Bears, meanwhile, are 3-1, but they aren’t as good as their record. Their defense is not playing nearly as well as it did last season, forcing just 12 punts all season. Only Philadelphia has forced fewer among teams who have played all 4 games. Yes, they’ve forced 14 takeaways, but they can’t continue relying on forcing takeaways to stop drives. They won’t recover 2 out of every 3 of their opponent’s fumbles all season. They didn’t recover fumbles at the same rate against Detroit and lost the turnover battle, surrendering 40 points in the process, the first time the Bears had surrendered 40+ points in a game since 2009.
I think they miss Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli defensively, while over 30 veterans Julius Peppers, Charles Tillman, and Lance Briggs are underachieving. As a result, they are allowing opponents to convert for a subsequent set of first downs 75% of the time, right in the middle of the pack. They actually have a negative differential in this aspect, converting about 73% of the time offensively. This would be a Pick of the Week if I trusted the Saints more on the road, but I feel like this line should be at least -3 favor of New Orleans. It’s really an elite team versus a more pedestrian/slightly above average team and the Saints 20-23 ATS road record since 2008 isn’t terrible. This could be a statement road win for the Saints.
New Orleans Saints 24 Chicago Bears 13
Pick against spread: New Orleans PK