5 storylines to watch as Bears face the Saints in wild-card round

Alyssa Barbieri
·5 min read

The Chicago Bears are back in the postseason, where they’ll play the No. 2 seed New Orleans Saints in the wild-card round. This game will be a rematch from Week 8, when the Saints beat the Bears 26-23 in overtime. But plenty has changed since November.

No one is giving Chicago a chance to pull the upset of New Orleans. But crazier things have happened in the postseason, especially when it comes to the Saints.

Here are five storylines to watch as the Bears head into their wild-card game against the Saints.

Can the Bears pull off the upset?

James Gilbert/Getty Images

Chicago is the biggest underdog of any opponent during wild-card weekend, where they're currently 10-point underdogs to New Orleans. Simply put: No one believes in the Bears. While the previous match-up between the Bears and Saints was decided by an overtime field goal, things have changed since Nov. 1. Chicago's defense has regressed and New Orleans has hit its offensive stride. While the Saints defense will see a new quarterback under center in Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears offense faces a difficult task of keeping pace with a red-hot Saints offense. But Chicago's defense will also have to contend with a high-powered New Orleans offense that features Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. While the task it certainly daunting, anything can happen in the playoffs, right?

Can Chicago win its first playoff game since 2010?

AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton

The Bears are making their second postseason appearance in three years, but their playoff drought is certainly nothing to celebrate. Chicago's last postseason victory was 10 years ago, when the Bears defeated the Seahawks 35-24 in the divisional round back in 2010. Although, to be fair, before 2018, the last time the Bears were in the playoffs was in 2010. Chicago will be looking to exorcise their playoff demons following their last postseason appearance, a gut wrenching 16-15 loss to the Eagles in the 2018 wild-card round when Cody Parkey's double-doink missed field goal sent the Bears to an early playoff exit. Back in 2018, everyone expected Chicago to secure the win. Now, no one believes in them. Which is exactly how they want it.

Will Bears defense rise to the challenge against Saints' high-powered offense?

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Chicago's defense has a lot to prove heading into the postseason. While they've been a top-10 defense in the NFL over the last three years, they've regressed over the last couple of months. After giving up 20.9 points per game over the first 10 games, the Bears have given up 26.8 points per game. In two games against the Packers, Chicago gave up an average 38 points per game, which is important considering the Saints are another team averaging north of 30 points per game. While there have been some injuries, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano has come under fire for his inability to utilize his players in his scheme. Whether it's the cornerbacks playing well off the receivers, sticking Danny Trevathan in pass coverage or his aversion to blitzing, Pagano hasn't done these players justice. But the big-money players, such as Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn and Eddie Jackson, need to step up in this game to five Chicago a chance.

Can Chicago's offense keep pace with New Orleans?

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

If the Bears are going to have a chance against this Saints team, they're going to need their offense to score more than the 16 points they did a week ago. Chicago needs to continue to stick with what's worked -- the run game with David Montgomery -- but also take some chances. Matt Nagy needs to trust Mitchell Trubisky, for better or worse, and that means giving him an opportunity to stretch the field. But Trubisky also needs to step up. One area that's been a focus this week has ben capitalizing in the red zone, something they failed to do against Green Bay last week. The Bears have five trips inside the red-zone and came away with just one touchdown. When you're playing a great team like the Saints, who are going to put up points, you need to capitalize on those opportunities.

What are the statuses of Roquan Smith, Jaylon Johnson and Darnell Mooney?

AP Photo/Kyusung Gong

The Bears were quite fortunate in the first half of the 2020 season when it came to injuries. They remained fairly healthy and they were able to take advantage of some teams that were banged up. In fact, they didn't have to face Saints receiver Michael Thomas in their first meeting back in Week 8. Now, Chicago could potentially be without three key starters in their biggest game of the season. The biggest loss would certainly be linebacker Roquan Smith, who suffered an elbow injury in last week's regular-season finale. Smith has easily been the Bears' best defensive player this season, and he was one of the best linebackers in the entire league. He's officially questionable. There is certainly some encouraging news on the Jaylon Johnson front, as he returned to practice for the first time this week. He was limited on Thursday and Friday, and he was been ruled questionable for Sunday. The Bears have been thin at cornerback with Johnson and Buster Skrine (who was ruled out again) sidelined with injuries. Then there's receiver Darnell Mooney, who had a career game against the Packers last week. Mooney suffered an ankle injury that held him out of practice this week, and he's been ruled questionable. Mooney has been explosive for the Bears this season, and his loss would certainly impact the offense.

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