The Chicago Bears' only legitimate chance to qualify for this year's playoffs round would be as the NFC North champions. The Bears trail the Vikings by one game and close with two at home versus the Saints and Packers and on the road against the Texans. The Vikings, meanwhile, close out the season on the road against the Cardinals and at home with the Falcons and Giants.
It's certainly not gong to be easy for the Bears, since they trail the Vikings in virtually every tiebreaker situations with just three games to go in the season. Strange as it seems, though, the Bears can't worry about the Vikings. Rather, they have to do a far better job on both sides of the football over the next three weeks.
Defensively, the Bears secondary has been banged up all season. Their thin defensive backfield will be severely tested against the league's most efficient passer, Drew Brees, on Thursday.
Offensively, expect the Bears to give the Saints a steady diet of Matt Forte, a home town New Orleans talent who attended school down the road from the Superdome at Tulane. Over the 2008 season (and in particularly during the second half), Forte has been the Bear's only consistent offensive threat, both on the ground and through the air. On the season, the rookie has run for 1081 yards and is also leads the club in receptions with 53.
In my opinion, the time has come for quarterback Kyle Orton to step up in the final month of the season and essentially put his stamp on the quarterback position.
The Saints have won just one game on the road all season. When you couple that with the fact that quarterback Drew Brees' passing numbers away from the friendly confines of the Superdome are very pedestrian, I really don't like their chances in this one. The Saints have struggled to move the football on the ground all season and will likely try and upgrade the position by way of free agency or the draft.
In the end, I believe that this one will be a competitive hard fought contest between two teams with matching 7 - 6 records and clinging to slim playoff chances. With sub-freezing weather forecast tonight in the "Windy City" (a high of 22 degrees) and their three straight victories over their conference rivals, I like the Bears to triumph in this very important contest.
Bears 21 – Saints 16