New Orleans Saints (5-1) at Chicago Bears (3-2)
Coming out of the bye, the Bears get quarterback Mitch Trubisky back from a shoulder injury that cost him almost two full games (he got hurt 3 pass attempts into week 4), but I’m not sure how much that matters for this struggling offense. The Bears only had a 30.51% first down rate in the two games Trubisky missed, but they weren’t much better in his 3 starts, picking up first downs at a 32.96% rate, and they rank just 28th in the NFL overall with a 31.99% first down rate. Trubisky had seemingly regressed in his third season in the league before his injury and the rest of this Bears’ offense has struggled as well, with and without Trubisky.
They still have a strong defense, but they aren’t quite as dominant as last year, ranking 8th in first down rate allowed at 34.24%. They lost talented safety Adrian Amos and key slot cornerback Bryce Callahan in free agency, while 2018 breakout star Eddie Jackson has not had the same kind of year in 2019. Losing defensive end Akiem Hicks, one of their best defensive players a year ago, indefinitely with an injury won’t help matters. The public doesn’t seem to have caught on that the Bears aren’t the same team as last year though, as they are favored by 4 points here at home over the Saints, suggesting they are noticeably the better team in this matchup.
The Saints have had some good luck to get to 5-1 (4-0 with backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater under center) and their offense has been noticeably worse without Brees, moving the chains at a 33.22% rate with Bridgewater in the game, as opposed to the 43.48% rate they moved the chains in 2018 in Brees’ starts. However, their defense has also been much improved in recent weeks, allowing a 29.88% first down rate in 3 games since defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins returned from injury, as opposed to 40.31% in their first 3 games of the season. When Brees returns, this team should be very tough to beat.
Even with feature back Alvin Kamara also out of the lineup this week, I have the Saints as 3 points better than the overrated Bears, suggesting this line should be about even, so we’re getting significant line value with the Saints as 4-point underdogs, with about 30% of games decided by 4 points or fewer. The Saints may not win straight up, but they have a good shot to pull the “upset” and move to 6-1 and even if they don’t this is likely to be a defensive battle that could easily come down to a field goal. I like getting 4 points with the Saints here.
New Orleans Saints 17 Chicago Bears 16 Upset Pick +170
Pick against the spread: New Orleans +4