Chicago's Week 2 opponent, the New Orleans Saints, finished 11-5 last season, good for second place in the NFC South behind the Atlanta Falcons. The team reached the playoffs as a wild card and had to play their first game in Seattle, against a Seahawks team that won the NFC West with a 7-9 record. Even though they'd won four more games in the regular season, New Orleans lost that contest 41-36.
The Saints opened this season on the road in Green Bay. The team was one yard away from scoring the potential game-tying touchdown with no time left on the clock, yet could not punch the ball in the end zone, losing 42-34 to the Packers.
Here's a look at the Saints roster, taking into account today's injury report.
OFFENSE: The Saints ranked 6th in the NFL in total yards last season. The team's 24.0 points per game was good for 11th in the league. They were 3rd in passing yard sper game but just 28th in rushing yards per game. Last week, the Saint's offense posted 477 total yards, 81 on the ground and 396 through the air.
QUARTERBACK: Drew Brees
Brees is a five-time Pro Bowl selection, three-time All-Pro selection, Super Bowl MVP, two-time NFC MVP and three-time NFC Offensive Player of the Year. Last season he threw for 4,620 yards and 33 touchdowns. Yet he also threw 22 interceptions, so he's not immune to mistakes.
Still, the Bears secondary will have their hands full, just like the Packers' did last week. Brees racked up 419 yards through the air on 49 attempts, with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He works the underneath routes well and isn't afraid to stretch opposing defenses with the deep ball. He moves the ball around very well and isn't afraid to use each of his receivers, backs and tight ends.
RB Mark Ingram
RUNNING BACKS: RB Pierre Thomas, FB Jed Collins, RB Mark Ingram, RB Darren Sproles
Saints runners were decimated by injuries last year. The team finished just 28th in the league in rushing. New Orleans infused new life into the backfield this offseason by drafting Alabama's Mark Ingram in the first round and signing Darren Sproles in free agency. Pierre Thomas is the senior member of this three-headed attack.
Ingram saw 15 carries last week to Thomas' five and received the short-yardage duties as well. He's a downhill runner with great quickness and agility. Many have likened his running style to that of Emmitt Smith. Expect coach Sean Payton to again go to his rookie runner often, spelling him occasionally with the bruising attack of Thomas.
The X-factor is Sproles, who is small (5-6, 190) and shifty and creates all kinds of matchup problems. The Saints will line him up all over the field, even splitting him out wide on occasion. Last week he caught seven passes for 75 yards. Expect New Orleans to get him about 10-15 touches on Sunday.
Graham, a former basketball player for Miami, played so well last year he made Jeremy Shockey expendable. The 6-6, 260-pounder possesses a rare combination of size, speed and leaping ability and is an inviting target for Brees, particularly in the red zone. He was targeted seven times last week, catching four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. Thomas is more of a blocker than a pass catcher.
One of the best receiving corps in the game, Colston, Moore, Meachem and Henderson combined for 228 receptions, 2,888 yards and 21 TDs last year. Fortunately for the Bears, Colston is out for Sunday's game with a shoulder injury and Moore may not play due to a pulled groin. Meachem and Henderson played well last week though, combing for 11 catches, 170 yards and 2 TDs. Roby is a journeyman player known for his solid special teams play. Due to injuries, don't expect a lot of four- and five-receiver sets this Sunday.
After having virtually the same offensive line for three seasons, the Saints have a new look as Kreutz, a six-time Pro Bowl pick, and Strief, a five-year backup, join the starting unit. They join forces with arguably one of the best guard tandems in the league in Evans and Nicks. Bushrod has performed admirably since stepping in at left tackle two seasons ago. If the Bears are going to get pressure, it's going to come from the outside because the interior of this line is as good as it gets.
The New Orleans front five gave up three sacks last week against Dom Capers' high-pressure attack. It's doubtful Chicago will have as much luck getting to Brees as they did against Matt Ryan last week. The Saints were only able to rush for 81 total yards versus the Packers.
DEFENSE: The Saints had the fourth-ranked defense in the league last year. They gave up 19.2 points per game, 7th best in the NFL. They ranked 16th against the pass and fourth against the run. Last week, the unit allowed 296 yards and three touchdowns through the air, and 103 yards on the ground, with two sacks and zero interceptions.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LDE Cameron Jordan, DT Sedrick Ellis, NT Shaun Rogers, RDE Will Smith. Backups -- DE Turk McBride, DT Aubrayo Franklin, DE Jeff Charleston, DE Junior Galette, DT Tom Johnson (questionable)
The Saints came to the conclusion late last season that they needed some bulk in the middle of their line and some pass-rushing ability on the edge. So they added four players they think can do that. Rogers, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, and Franklin were brought in to help slow down the run game, while Jordan and McBride are being counted on to help with a pass rush and bring some extra pressure to the quarterback – the Saints produced just 33 sacks a year ago. Ellis played at a high level last season and had a team-high six sacks, while Charleston and Galette bring more speed to the rotation.
NT Shaun Rogers
The Saints' defensive front had a hard time getting consistent pressure on Aaron Rodgers last week, with just Galette earning half a sack. The Packers were also able to gain 103 yards on the ground as a team.
With the exception of the steady Vilma, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, this area of the team arguably its weakest. Casillas won a starting job last year in training camp but then suffered a season-ending foot injury. Including last week, he's started just three games in his career so far. Shanle is a solid, yet unspectacular veteran in his ninth season.
Vilma and Casillas combined for 14 tackles last week. Casillas only had two tackles but he did pick up a sack.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Jabari Greer, FS Malcolm Jenkins, SS Roman Harper (questionable), RCB Tracy Porter (questionable). Backups -- LCB Leigh Torrence, RCB Patrick Robinson, RCB Johnny Patrick, SS Jonathon Amaya
The Saints ranked fourth against the pass in 2010, thanks in part to the cover abilities of Greer and Porter. Jenkins and Harper are hid hitters but can be inconsistent in coverage. Robinson, a former first-round draft pick, will serves as the nickelback.
Harper and Porter are listed as questionable. If neither can go, Jay Cutler and the Bears' passing attack should have success moving the ball through the air.
Aaron Rodgers and company tore this unit up to the tune of 312 yards and three touchdowns with nary an interception. Rodgers completed 27 of 35 pass attempts and finished the game with a 132.1 quarterback rating.
K Garrett Hartley suffered a hip flexor in the preseason and will be out through at least this week. The team signed John Kasay to replace him. The 21-year veteran has a career 81.9 field goal percentage. Morstead averaged 45.9 yards per punt last year, good for sixth in the league. He has a strong leg and is effective on kickoffs.
Sproles handled both punt and kick return duties last week and was outstanding. He returned two kickoffs for 76 yards, including a 57-yard jaunt. He also returned two punts for 96 yards and a touchdown. Bears special team coordinator Dave Toub will have his hands full mitigating Sproles' impact in the return game.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.