Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Can the Saints beat the Bears?

Let's look at the positions one by one for a comparison:

The Chicago Bears (11-2) have few weaknesses but they have one glaring one: Rex Grossman as quarterback. The Saints had almost 400 yards in their worst game of the season against Baltimore. The Bears managed a measly 107 yards of total offense against the Vikings in its worst offensive game of the season, BUT, they still won, getting touchdowns off a punt return from Devin Hester and an interception return from Ricky Manning Jr. But the point remains, the Bears can be shut down; if the Vikings can do it, then a playoff defense, which New Orleans has, certainly can.

The Saints(9-4) come into the final weeks of the season as a juggernaut. Having run circles around the Dallas Cowboys, the Saints have become, to everyone's surprise, The Greatest Show on Turf. Devery Henderson has had 169, 158, 14 & 92 receiving yards in his last 4 games and its becoming a natural beast. Reggie Bush has had 125, 131 yards on short throws that he has weaved into long receptions. But can the Saints beat the Bears?

Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the NFL. He has the highest passer rating in the league (101.2) and is on pace for 5000 yards.
Rex Grossman is one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. Grossman is 22nd in the league with a passer rating of 74.5. He has 20 touchdowns and 17 picks.

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Deuce McAllister is on pace for 1,000 yards. And is a bruising back with decent speed and power. Although he doesn't have the yards that Chicago's main back has neither has he gotten the carries. Yet he averages more yards per carry (4.5) than Chicago's main back, which is the more important statistic.
Reggie Bush is more of a scatback that can dodge defenders and run horizontically as well as vertically. And of course, he's a defensive mismatch catching in the ball.

Thomas Jones already has 1054 yards (4.1 yards a carry) and has the quickness to make a big play. But defenses can clamp down on him and dare Grossman to beat them, which he does only some of the time.

Let's be honest, Marques Colston is hurt more severely than we thought; Joe Horn is raggedy and can't go for many more games now. They both need an extended offseason before they return to game form. It'll be up to speedster Devery Henderson to save the receiving corps. Problem is, he won't be able to run the straight "Go" routes now that he's burned defenders in 3 of the past 4 games. Opposing teams will gameplan against him now. Still Reggie Bush, third in the league in receptions with 79, is on pace for 100 catches and 1,000 yards.

The Bears have a veteran blue-chipper in Muhsin Muhammad, who has lost a step from his Carolina days, but is saavy enough to make defenders pay. Muhammad has 687 yards receiving this year and 5 touchdowns, which is comparable to Henderson's 654 yards and 5 TDs. Still, he has experience that gives him an edge on many defenders.

Chicago has the premier playmaker at special teams kick returner Devin Hester. His touchdowns on kick returns leads the league (14 yards per) and Chicago's awesome game of field position make this hands down a Bears advantage. Hester set an NFL record Monday night with his fifth and sixth kickoff returns for touchdowns this season, a 94-yard kickoff runback in the second quarter and a 96-yarder in the 4th period. But, in the playoffs, will opposing teams kick to him? Not if they're smart.

Saints veteran returnman Michael Lewis is 15th in the league in kick returning but has yet to take one to the house this year. With the emergence of Henderson and Bush, expect Lewis' role to diminish even further. But with Bush returning punts the Saints have as good a chance as anyone to be lethal on special teams. Still, I give the advantage to: CHICAGO

Chicago's defense has created 11 turnovers in the last 3 games. Chicago leads the league with 40 takeaways - 11 more than Baltimore - after having 34 last season. They have defensive backs that are decent but there bread-and-butter is the play of their linebackers. Brian Urlacher has 3 interceptions this year and interestingly, no sacks, since he's more likely to drop in coverage these days. But don't worry, the Bears get plenty of pressure from their front four.
New Orleans has unsung bunch that is quickly garnering attention. Mike Mckenzie woke up from a season-long slumber to pick off two passes against San Francisco. Fred Thomas and Stoutmire had picks against Dallas; and the defensive line causes just enough trouble to earn respect.

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