The New Orleans Saints are coming to Chicago for the second consecutive year. The Bears and Saints will kick off at 3:25 p.m. Sunday from Soldier Field.
The Bears are trying to rebound from a dismal 24-10 loss to the Rams last week, while the Saints have won three in a row, including last week against the Carolina Panthers.
Here are five things to watch for in the Week 8 matchup:
Can Matt Nagy and the Bears make an adjustment?
The Bears can’t be as bad as they were Monday night against the Rams, right? Head coach Matt Nagy says the Bears are self-scouting and they’re doing what they can with the players they have, but fans will continue to gripe until they see adjustments.
After Monday’s ugly performance, the Bears must do something different. Use those extra tight ends for run blocking? Try Alex Bars at left guard? Use a different punt return man? At this point, Bears fans will take anything.
“Anytime you have a loss like we did last week, you want to see how your team responds,” Nagy said. “At the same time, again, I know who our guys are and I have a good feeling of how they’re going to respond.”
How does losing Cody Whitehair affect the offensive line?
Bears center Cody Whitehair is officially out for Sunday’s game. Undrafted free agent Sam Mustipher will step into the starting center role. Mustipher signed with the Bears out of Notre Dame in 2019 and spent all of the 2019 season on the Bears practice squad.
By all accounts, the Bears are excited about the opportunity for Mustipher. Still, a rookie center is not an ideal design for a struggling offensive line. Mustipher played in the game Monday after Whitehair went down, but this will be his first career NFL start. Keep an eye on the communication between Mustipher and quarterback Nick Foles.
Will the losing streak continue?
The Bears have lost five consecutive games against the New Orleans Saints dating back to 2011. The last Bears win over the Saints was on Thursday Night Football on Dec. 11, 2008. The Bears won 27-24 in overtime on a Robbie Gould 35-yard field goal. Kyle Orton quarterbacked the Bears that night.
Since then, the Bears have lost five straight, and the closest contests during that time were a pair of eight-point losses.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace spent years scouting for the Saints, working his way up to director of player personnel. Since taking the GM job with the Bears, though, Pace’s Bears are 0-2 against his former team.
Saints running back Alvin Kamara leads the NFL in all-purpose yards with 868 total yards, 123 yards more than his next closest challenger. Kamara is averaging more than 144 total yards per game.
“He’s just floating and gliding and he breaks tackles and he can stop and start, get to full speed on his second step, make guys miss,” Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “We have to do a phenomenal job. It’s like 'Where’s Waldo.'”
With Saints receiver Michael Thomas out with a hamstring injury Sunday, Kamara will continue to be the No. 1 focus of the New Orleans offense. Kamara has been by necessity. Thomas, dealing with ankle and hamstring injuries, has not played since Week 1.
Bears front seven
If the Bears are going to slow Kamara, it has to start up front. That will be the key matchup in this game.
With receivers Thomas and Marquez Callaway out for the Saints, the Bears secondary should have the advantage against the Saints receivers. That still puts a lot of pressure on the defensive front to stop Kamara.
When the Bears are at their best, they’re creating havoc in the backfield. Rams quarterback Jared Goff had much too easy of a night on Monday. Other than Khalil Mack’s strip sack (which the Rams recovered), Goff largely avoided trouble. The Bears can’t allow Drew Brees to become comfortable in the pocket.