Justin Fields returned to practice on Friday, where he participated for the first time since he dislocated his thumb against the Vikings in Week 6. Officially, Fields is doubtful for the game and all the signs strongly point to Tyson Bagent making his third start in a row. The rookie QB has performed remarkably well in his opportunity and delivered a Bears win against the Raiders in Week 7. Will he be able to deliver another in New Orleans this Sunday. Here’s what the Under Center podcast crew thinks.
The Saints have one of the better defenses in the NFL. They have not gotten to opposing teams' QBs as much as they have in the past, but that backend is loaded with veteran DBs. Tyson Bagent's third start will be in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL. Derek Carr has a lot of weapons on the offensive side of the ball. Alvin Kamara has been deployed well in the passing game this season, and it reminds me of how Sean Payton utilized him when he was the Saints head coach. I think this game will have a similar outcome to the last against the Chargers.
Saints: 28, Bears 16
Tyson Bagent played well in his first career start against a hapless Raiders team that was dying to have its coach fired. He looked more like an undrafted rookie in his second start. The Chargers threw a lot of different things at him, mixed coverages well, and forced him to make some poor throws.
It doesn’t get any easier against a Saints defense that ranks fifth in yards allowed per game and sixth in interceptions per game. The Saints have a veteran defense led by Demario Davis, Cameron Jordan, and Marshon Lattimore who will make life tough on Bagent. If the Saints get up early and force the Bears to abandon the run, things could get out of hand in the Superdome.
On the other side, the Bears’ defense was just shredded by a Chargers team that lived on short passes to running back Austin Ekeler. Now, they face a Saints team that loves to dump it off to running back Alvin Kamara and let him work. Montez Sweat will play, but the Bears will be without linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. That absence could hamper their ability to slow down Kamara in the pass game.
I think Bagent will play better in New Orleans than he did in LA. The Bears should be able to run the ball and hang around until the second half. But eventually, the Saints’ talent will take over and the Bears will fall to 2-7.
Saints: 24, Bears: 16
Derek Carr has been prone to mistakes this season, so the Bears should have chances to take the ball away this week. Getting Eddie Jackson back at safety and adding Montez Sweat to the mix will help in that department, too. But the Bears struggled to contain running back Austin Ekeler as a pass catcher last week, and this week they’re going to face another top shelf pass-catching back in Alvin Kamara. The Bears will need to tackle much, much better than they did last week, or Carr might not need to move off of Kamara to his other highly-talented playmakers in Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed and Michael Thomas.
On the other side of the ball, the Saints probably have the best defense the Bears have faced all season. They rank second in the NFL in completion percentage allowed (57.5%), second in third-down defense (32.4%), third in yards/passing attempt (5.6) and tied for fourth in interceptions (9). If there’s a weakness, it’s the Saints run defense. But if the Bears fall behind early, again, and if they have to rely more on the pass game, again, they’ll play right into the Saints’ strengths.
Take all of that and add in the hostile Superdome factor, and it results in a tough path to victory for the Bears.
Saints: 27, Bears: 17