Sunday afternoon, Super Wild Card Weekend continues with a matchup between the 8-8 Chicago Bears and the 12-4 New Orleans Saints. The No. 2 Saints have won the NFC South for the fourth straight season and enter the playoffs on the eve of back-to-back wins, whereas the No. 7 Bears lost in Week 17 to the Packers but back-doored into the playoffs, their second appearance in three seasons, after the Cardinals lost as well.
Here is a preview for Sunday's matchup in New Orleans, complete with a free pick. As it stands, the Saints are 9.5-point favorites at home.
Back in Week 8, the Saints managed to eke out a 26-23 victory in overtime on the road. Playing without receivers Michael Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders, running back Alvin Kamara shouldered the load with over 160 all-purpose yards, while Drew Brees threw for 280 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
For Chicago, Nick Foles led the charge with 270 yards and a couple of touchdowns, as the Bears came back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime. Running back David Montgomery also had over 100 all-purpose yards in the loss.
New Orleans has the edge in both offensive and defensive stats, but the offense is the more-glaring example. The Saints are top-five in the NFL with 30 points per game, whereas the Bears are 22nd with an average of 23.3 points. New Orleans also holds a wide margin in yards per game and third-down success rate; the Bears rank next-to-last in the latter.
Defensively, the 21.1 points the Saints allow per game is within the top-five, while the Bears rank 13th with 23.1 points allowed. In addition to New Orleans being the better team in terms of yards allowed, they also earned 45 sacks and a league-leading 18 interceptions. Chicago, meanwhile, settled for 35 sacks and 10 interceptions.
The Bears will have several key names to monitor. The biggest is linebacker Roquan Smith, who injured his elbow last week against Green Bay. Smith hasn't practiced all week and is officially listed as 'questionable' for the game. Wide receiver Darnell Mooney and cornerback Jaylon Johnson are also questionable to play, with Mooney missing practice all week.
Meanwhile, the Saints appear to have health on their side as well. Alvin Kamara will come off of the COVID-19/Reserve List on Saturday and is expected to play, and Michael Thomas returned to practice earlier this week as well. The biggest loss for New Orleans will come on the o-line, where guard Nick Easton has been ruled out.
Key Betting Trends
The 8-8 Bears went 8-8 ATS as well, as well as 5-3 ATS on the road. However, they have lost their last six games against New Orleans, covering in two of them, while going 3-7 overall in their previous 10 games total.
The 12-4 Saints went 9-6-1 ATS, but with just a 4-3-1 ATS mark in the Superdome. However, they're a whopping 7-1-1 ATS in their last nine games and winners in five of their last six home games overall.
This game has the biggest spread differential on the weekend slate, and it's easy to see why. The Saints are better in nearly every aspect and will have the advantage of being at home.
For Chicago to win, Montgomery will need to have a big game on the ground while the defense makes stops on third down and in the red zone like they did in their first meeting this season. However, the Bears' defense has declined since then, and the Saints' offense has improved, so I'm picking New Orleans to make up for their last couple of years of postseason disappointments by winning big on Sunday.
Betting Pick: New Orleans Saints (-9.5).