The Chicago Bears are hosting the marching New Orleans Saints in Week 7. Coming off their bye, preceded by a loss to the Oakland Raiders, the Bears are looking to right the ship offensively. But they will also have to deal with a significant loss to their vaunted defense. Can the two sides of the ball balance out to get Chicago back in the win column?
Bears Facing Red-Hot Saints
The (Possible) Return of Mitch Trubisky
The Bears hope to get a huge piece back in quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. He has been sidelined with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder since early in Week 4 against the Minnesota Vikings. Nothing is settled and if he does return, he will reportedly have to wear a harness.
The Bears offense as a whole needs to get their act together. Many fans were clamoring for backup Chase Daniel to remain the starter but he showed why that is a bad idea in London. Trubisky has not been good this season. But his playmaking ability is something the offense will need more often than not.
Shuffling along the offensive line could be a boon. Guard Kyle Long has been placed on injured reserve, ending his season and possibly his career. Long has been bad this season, looking to have lost the mobility to be effective. In his place will be one of either Long’s top backup Ted Larsen, converted defensive lineman Rashaad Coward, and rookie Alex Bars.
The Bears are currently 30th in total yards per game and passing yards per game. They are 21st in rushing attempts and 26th in rushing yards per game. Perhaps one of the new guards can have a ripple effect, particularly on Bobby Massie, and the blocking gets shored up. That would go a long way towards getting the offense right.
Juicing the Offense
Another way the Bears might be able to jumpstart the offense is to implement more play-action passes. This is a drum some have been beating for some time and the calls should be growing louder. Trubisky had been one of the best on play-action going back to UNC. On limited opportunities in his rookie and sophomore seasons, he was among the highest-rated.
The Bears have swapped traditional play-action out for RPOs. They were 22nd in percentage of play-action passes but first in RPO usage in 2018. Only 16.8 percent of Trubisky’s throws have been play-action. For comparison, 27.7 percent of reigning-MVP Patrick Mahomes’ (who plays in the parent system to Bears offense) throws have been play-action.
Whatever optimism Trubisky’s return elicits, the loss of Akiem Hicks is just as devastating, if not more so. Hicks is the heart and soul of the Bears stout defensive unit and has been since 2016. The Bears put him on IR with an elbow injury sustained in the opening minutes of the Raiders game. Hopefully, he can return by Week 15; he reportedly will not require surgery.
In the meantime, Nick Williams and the anticipated return of Bilal Nichols will have to maintain the status quo up the middle. No one player can make up for the loss of Hicks but between Williams, Nichols, and Roy Robertson-Harris, the Bears should still be formidable. But their ceiling is undoubtedly lowered.
Bears Hosting Saints
The Bears will host the marching Saints, who are 4-0 under Teddy Bridgewater. But the former first-round pick has been more game manager than a playmaker. That is reflected by his 40.3 Total QBR. Even minus Hicks, the players listed above should still be plenty of support for Khalil Mack to do work against a Saints line allowing the 10th-fewest sacks per game.
Alvin Kamara is listed as questionable and the Saints just signed Zach Zenner, hinting that Kamara may miss the game or at least be limited. That would be huge for the Bears defense. They would still have to contend with Michael Thomas, a tough task for anyone, let alone for the Bears corners who have had up-and-down seasons.
Prediction: Banged-up on both sides of the ball, to the point of replacing multiple starters, the Bears could struggle against a Saints team that is tied with the Bears for third in giveaways per game in 2019 and second in total yards allowed per game over their last three games. Bears 17 Saints 21
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