New Orleans Saints (4-2) at Chicago Bears (5-2)
The Bears are 5-2, but they’re about as bad as a 5-2 team can be. While their five wins have remarkably all come by one score or less, including a pair of wins that both required nearly impossible 4th quarter comebacks, the Bears haven’t been competitive in either of their losses. They needed a last second garbage time touchdown to cut their margin of defeat against the Colts from 16 to 8 and they needed a meaningless defensive touchdown late against the Rams to cut their margin of defeat from 21 to 14. Their average lead ranks just 24th in the league and in terms of schedule adjusted first down rate differential, they rank 25th at -1.91%.
As bad as that is, there are reasons to believe it will get worse going forward. For one, the Bears have been reliant on their defense so far, ranking 28th in first down rate over expected and 10th in first down rate allowed over expected, and defensive performance tends to be much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis than offensive performance. If the Bears’ defense happens to have an off game, the Bears don’t really have much of a shot of beating anyone outside of the worst teams in the league. The Bears are also starting to lose key players to injury, particularly on offense, where they will be without a pair of key offensive linemen in James Daniels and Cody Whitehair. Their defense also has a significant injury concern with edge defender Khalil Mack playing at less than 100% recently.
Making matters even worse for the Bears, they have a tough matchup with the Saints this week and are in a tough spot, on a short week, coming off of an ugly performance. Teams are 39-54 ATS since 2002 after a Monday Night Football loss by 17 or more points and, though the Bears technically lost by 14, it would have been 21 if not for that meaningless defensive touchdown. With little time to adjust from last week’s loss, the Bears could easily be blown out again this week, especially since they won’t have the benefit of any fans in the stadium in Chicago this week.
A lot of attention has been given to the Saints’ absences in the receiving corps without their top-2 wide receivers in Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but the Saints haven’t had Thomas healthy and have had to shuffle things in the receiving corps all year and they still rank 7th in first down rate over expected at +2.59%. The Bears are also missing much about as much on offense as the Saints, which is a big problem because they’ve struggled even when relatively healthy, while the Saints’ defense should be better than their 15th ranked schedule adjusted first down rate allowed, now that key players like Marcus Davenport, Janoris Jenkins, and Marshon Lattimore have returned to the lineup.
Given that the Saints are healthy defensively now, it’s not a stretch to say these two teams are comparable on the defensive side of the ball, with the Saints also having the massive edge on offense. This line is too low at New Orleans -4, as my calculated line is New Orleans -7.5, so the Saints are worth a bet this week. They should win this one with relative ease against a Bears team that is not nearly as good as their record and that is missing key offensive players.
New Orleans Saints 24 Chicago Bears 16
Pick against the spread: New Orleans -4