CHICAGO BEARS (3-4) AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (4-2)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Mercedes-Benz Superdome. TV: FOX, Justin Kutcher, Chris Spielman, Jennifer Hale (field reporter).
SERIES HISTORY: 28th regular-season meeting. Saints lead series, 14-13. The Saints have won four of the last five at home over the Bears, but the only loss in that stretch was at Baton Rouge following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Bears' last victory in New Orleans was in 1991. The teams have met twice in the postseason, the Bears winning both at Soldier Field, 16-6 in 1990 and 35-14 in the NFC Championship Game after the 2006 season.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bears might want to recycle their game plan from Week 1 against Matt Ryan because Saints quarterback Drew Brees is similar in terms of wanting to move around within the pocket. They need to immediately create an interior push, whether from nose tackle Eddie Goldman or one of their inside linebackers blitzing. The Saints have gotten away with five turnovers the last two games, and strong interior pushes by the Lions and Packers had much to do with forcing these.
Offensively, working short on Saints linebackers with tight ends, slot receivers and running back Tarik Cohen is a good way to get rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky into the passing game right away, and also to take advantage of a perceived weakness. Detroit was able to hurt New Orleans with some throws to backs, as New England did early in the season.
The Saints retooled their linebacker corps with mixed results. Cohen's running and receiving indoors would be a solid choice of emphasis in the offense and a way to balance the attack to keep New Orleans from ganging up on running back Jordan Howard.
The Saints should try to force Trubisky to make more plays in the passing game than he has had to in winning the last two games with just 196 passing yards. The Saints have 17 sacks and the Bears have allowed 17. Putting the rookie in obvious passing situations could lead to turnovers. Chicago has turned the ball over 14 times.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Saints WR Michael Thomas vs. Bears CB Kyle Fuller. Each week, the biggest opposing receiver has tried to pick on Fuller, and all have failed, to a large extent. Even Julio Jones had trouble against him. At 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds, Thomas has the size advantage and has been the player Brees looks to in order to extend drives. Fuller continues his contract drive, but is still looking for a big play like the Bears safeties have made each of the last two games.
Bears OL vs. Saints DTs. The Bears have the seventh-most productive running game in the NFL and it will be up to the tackles to make it difficult for Howard to find running room between the tackles. The Packers had success running against the Saints in the first half, but not in the second half.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Saints LB A.J. Klein. The Saints' leading tackler usually stays on the field even when the defense is using a fifth defensive back. He will be the key to slowing down the Bears' running game both as a tackler and as the player most responsible for getting the defense aligned properly. Klein will also be a factor against the passing game, especially because Chicago figures to utilize short passes for Trubisky.
FAST FACTS: Bears rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky had a career-high 101.8 rating last week. He aims for his third game in a row with a 90-plus rating. ... Bears rookie RB Tarik Cohen had a career-long 70-yard catch in Week 7 and is one of two rookies (Kareem Hunt) with a 70-yard catch in 2017. He ranks fourth among NFL rookies with 27 catches. ... Bears rookie S Eddie Jackson had a 76-yard interception for a TD and a 75-yard fumble return for a TD last week, making him the first player in NFL history with two 75-yard defensive TDs in a game. ... Saints QB Drew Brees has 933 passing yards (311 per game), eight TDs and no INTs in his past three meetings with the Bears. He has 500 career TD passes (including playoffs) -- fourth in NFL history. ... Saints WR Michael Thomas has hit 80 receiving yards in four of the past five games. ... Saints DE Alex Okafor aims for his third game in a row with a sack and forced fumble. He is tied for the NFL lead with three forced fumbles.
PREDICTION: The Saints have been riding a balanced offense to four straight wins and the top of the NFC South. The Bears can't keep up. Look for the Saints to keep marching on.
OUR PICK: Saints, 27-16.