CHICAGO (CBS)- The Bears are a playoff team. Granted, it didn’t exactly happen the way fans would have hoped at the beginning of the season, but they are in the dance at least after Arizona lost last weekend allowing them to slip into the final Wild Card spot at 8-8.
Their reward? A rematch with a New Orleans Saints team that beat them in overtime, 26-23, back in Week 8 when the Bears were at the beginning of their six-game losing skid. Set to air on Sunday on CBS and a special kids-themed broadcast on Nickelodeon, the matchup is a difficult one to assess because the Bears play has been so up and down this season.
“I have no idea what to make of them to be honest. It’s been an up-and-down year. Last time they faced the Saints, they had Nick Foles as their quarterback. Granted, they took them to overtime but you don’t know how this team is playing right now,” said NFL on CBS lead reporter Tracy Wolfson. “I think they were feeling confident down the stretch of the season after that six-game losing streak but then they lose to the Packers in a fashion they didn’t want to lose. They felt like they could have had it if a few of those plays that might have swung the momentum. And that’s an interesting way to kind of come into, backdooring your way into a Wild Card in a sense.”
Though the way they made the playoffs was unconventional, Wolfson is curious to see what version of the team shows up on Sunday. Is it the team that started 5-1? The one that lost six straight in the middle of the year? Or the one that won three straight to put themselves in position for a playoff berth? Time will tell but Wolfson does believe there are two big keys for the Bears to be able to hang around on Sunday.
“I think Mitchell Trubisky has been doing a really good job since he’s come back. The key for him is to just don’t try and do too much. That’s going to be key for them. Establishing the run with Montgomery who’s really done a good job down the stretch.” said Wolfson. “Establishing that run and then allowing Mitchell Trubisky to get out of the pocket and utilize his legs but not do too much. Certainly a challenge, and a challenge going against a Saints defense with a pass rush that is one of the best in the NFL.”
The Saints defense has been the better of the team’s two units in recent weeks. The offensive side has struggled due to missing key players like quarterback Drew Brees and wide receiver Michael Thomas with injuries. Brees returned late in the year while Thomas is expected back for Sunday. Wolfson says that the job head coach Sean Payton has done to get the team to this point in spite of those injuries should earn him some recognition.
“The job that Sean Payton has done, he doesn’t get enough credit for it. Certainly should be considered in National Coach of the Year conversations for what he has been able to do,” said Wolfson. “I think Michael Thomas and Drew Brees have played just 10 quarters together this whole entire season. That is incredible.”
Payton’s adaptability with the offense and a ferocious defense have New Orleans sitting as the number two seed in the NFC. They’re favored by 10 points entering Sunday’s game. While Wolfson does believe New Orleans is the better team, she offers some hope for Bears fans looking for the team to pull an upset.
“I do think if they can not make the mistakes, if they can hang in there, if their offensive line can handle this pass rush, they have a shot to be able to move the ball and run the ball,” said Wolfson.
Still, in the end, Wolfson says, “the Saints are all around from top to bottom, too good of a team.”
The Bears travel to New Orleans to face the Saints on Sunday, January 10 at 4:40 p.m. Eastern Time.
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