Before the season began, I would have drooled at the prospect of what should be two powerhouse offenses collide in a potential playoff deciding game. Instead we get this. But here we are, and no drool to be seen.
Two mountains of pre-season expectation, now two cow dung piles of smelly 5-8 seasons. Because of the fertilizer farm that is the NFC South, the Saints are still in a position to grab a home game in the playoffs, whilst the Bears are knee deep in doodoo and out of the playoffs.
Breaking Down The Numbers
Looking at the numbers, this should be a high scoring affair. New Orleans are 9th in scoring offense (25.6 PPG) whilst Chicago are 19th (21.6). Whilst these aren’t jaw dropping numbers, it’s the horrible defenses that make me think there will be plenty of points in this one. New Orleans are 30th in scoring defense, allowing 27.6 points a game, while Chicago are bottom of the league, allowing 29.1 points a game this season.
An issue defensively for the Saints is their inability to stop teams on third down. They have been the worst team in the league, teams able to convert 47% of third downs against them this season. They have been struggling more so lately, that number going up to 52% over the last three games. Chicago have been better in that area, teams only converting 38% of first downs at Chicago this season.
These teams have struggled on third down on the offensive side of the ball lately. Over the last three outings, New Orleans have been converting at a rate of 39%, Chicago at 29%. These are well down on season averages of 49% and 41% respectively.
Forecast For Monday Night Football
With a forecast of cold weather, wind and rain, I expect the running game will go a way to deciding this one. New Orleans have been the better team on the ground this season, clocking up 123.7 yards a game at 4.7 yards an attempt, whilst Chicago have struggled, going for 88.7 a game at only 3.9 a clip.
Chicago have however been better at home, rushing for 106.3 yards a game at 4.4 yards a carry. Although New Orleans have been better on the ground, they balance it out by being awful against the run. They are 30th in the league in yards per rush against, teams averaging 4.7 yards a carry. Although that is pretty bad, the Saints have done a good job of looking even worse over the last three games, where that number jumps to 6.2 yards a carry.
Importance Of The Red Zone
As important as the running game will be in this one, I think the story will be told in the red zone. Whilst these teams haven’t been as explosive as they’d like offensively, their efficiency in the red zone has actually been quite good. New Orleans have converted 60% of their red zone trips into touchdowns, good for ninth in the league.
The most surprising part of this stat? That number has been 48% at home, and 72% on the road. Yep, you read that right. Now we could either talk about the Saints as being this incredible nomadic team, who are so much stronger on the road. Or we could be logical and believe this stat could start to even out, and not to expect this type of red zone efficiency on the road to be the norm. Chicago have been even better in the red zone, scoring a touchdown on 66% of red zone drives this season (fifth in the league.)
Defensively, the red zone has been a real weakness for the Saints. They have been allowing 70% of red zone drives on the road to turn into touchdowns. The Bears have been significantly better, conceding a touchdown 54% of the time, 15th best in the league.
Now let’s look at these two teams from a betting standpoint:
The only significant number that stands out for me is the over trend. These teams are a combined 18-8 hitting the over. That, combined with the horrible defenses that will be taking the field would generally have me favouring the over. But I won’t. As I mentioned earlier, the forecast is not great.
We should be seeing a significant weather impact on this game, with the rain and wind making that field hard to play on. I will be staying away from betting the total on this game. I think the total, which is set at 54, is about right for this game. Could easily see it being right there or thereabouts. What I will be playing is Chicago +3, especially off a few extra days rest. I actually feel pretty good about this bet. I felt good about last preview, picking Arizona at +4.5, moneyline, and the under, which all cashed in. If this turns out the same way, feel free to post me a beer.
My pick – Chicago +3 (and sprinkle the moneyline)
Prediction – New Orleans 27, Chicago 28