The New Orleans Saints (5-8) and Chicago Bears (5-8) have the same record through 13 games, but different circumstances has one team in playoff contention, while the other's postseason hopes are over. When the two teams meet on “Monday Night Football,” New Orleans will have much more on the line, as they continue their quest for a division title.
The NFC South has proven to be the NFL’s worst division. New Orleans and the Atlanta Falcons (5-8) are tied for first place, and the division winner won’t have a record above .500. Monday’s game is very important to the Saints, who have a worse divisional record than the Falcons.
Chicago is not as fortunate to be in such a weak division. The Green Bay Packers (10-3) enter Week 15 atop the NFC North, and nine wins in 10 games has made them the betting favorites to win the Super Bowl. The Detroit Lions (9-4) began the week tied for the league’s second-best record, and the Minnesota Vikings (6-7) have been respectable in 2014.
Both teams were expected to perform much better this season, and have been plagued by similar issues: disappointing performances from their quarterbacks and bad defenses.
Drew Brees has consistently been a top three quarterback during his time with the Saints, but that hasn’t been the case this season. While Brees has provided flashes of his past form, the eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback is no longer playing at an elite level. He has already matched his interception total from last year with 12 picks, and has had seven games with a passer rating of less than 95.0.
Prior to the Saints’ last game, Brees refuted a report that the team would search for his replacement in the upcoming draft. He proceeded to have his worst game of the season, posting a season-low 69.7 passer rating in a 41-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers, who hadn’t won since Week 4.
Jay Cutler has been average at best, ranking 16th in passer rating (91.7) and leading the NFC with 15 interceptions. Wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey, as well as running back Matt Forte, give the Bears some of the best playmakers in football. Still, Chicago is tied for just 17th with 21.6 points per game.
Cutler hasn’t looked worthy of the new contract he signed in the offseason, and his performance has led to controversy within the organization. The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday that the Bears were having “buyer’s remorse,” and the team nearly benched Cutler in Week 12. To make matters worse, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer admitted to being Rapoport’s source.
Despite their struggles, both quarterbacks will have a chance to put up big numbers on Monday. The defenses for both teams rank near the bottom of the league.
Only two teams allow more than the 27.6 points per game that New Orleans surrenders. They’ve been equally bad against the pass, ranking 29th in both categories. The Saints have given up at least 27 points to the Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who all rank in the bottom third of the league in points scored.
The Bears have the worst scoring defense in the NFL, allowing 29.1 points per game. They’ve played especially poorly against the pass, ranking 30th with an opponents’ passer rating of 103.4. Chicago has surrendered at least 38 points four times, and 75 combined points in the last two games.
New Orleans is a three-point favorite on the road. The over/under is 54 points.
Prediction: Chicago over New Orleans, 34-28