This Sunday, the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears will meet for the first time since the 2021 NFC Wild Card round. The two teams look very different from the last time they played, so we should be treated to a good game.
This week, we are joined by Bill Zimmerman with Windy City Gridiron to discuss this weekend's matchup with the Bears.
LH: The Bears just made a big move for Montez Sweat, sending a second-round pick for his talents. Do you think this was a good move? Or do you think they should’ve kept the draft capital?
BZ: It’s definitely an odd situation. The Bears pass rush has been one of the worst in the league and there’s no question they needed a viable edge to boost their pass rush. But this season is lost and trading away a second-round pick (that will certainly be a top 40 pick) to add one very good player that you will have to pay top dollar to for a team that is several players away still has to be questioned.
It’s also not great that Sweat, and the Bears don’t seem to be on the same page. GM Ryan Poles said in his press conference that they are currently working on a contract extension but when Sweat addressed the media he said he doesn’t plan to sign anything soon and wants to be in Chicago for a bit before he makes any decisions. It’s no secret that Sweat would have preferred to go to Atlanta so it’s understandable he has some hesitation with Chicago being he just came from one bad franchise and was traded to another.
With no extension getting done for Jaylon Johnson and Sweat’s comments, the Bears have two key players now headed to free agency in 2024 and only one tag to utilize. They have to retain both, so it’s critical that they get an extension done with one of them. If they can’t extend Sweat, trading a second-round pick to play the franchise tag with a player is certainly a bad process.
LH: With Justin Fields out and Tyson Bagent starting, what do you expect from the Bears offense on Sunday?
BZ: Honestly, not much. I expect the Saints defense to bottle up this offense pretty easily. Tyson Bagent is a fantastic story, but his on the field performance has been overhyped and Cris Collinsworth took it to another level on Sunday night. Bagent is fun and has the makings of a solid QB2. That’s a steal for a UDFA. Some fans and media want to make him out to be more than he is, and all that is doing is putting unfair expectations on him.
Bagent gets the ball out quick so he’s difficult to sack, he sees the field well and he makes good decisions with the football. But quite simply, at this point, he just doesn’t have an NFL arm. It’s accurate, but it just doesn’t have the strength once he needs to push the ball down the field. According to PFF, he’s only been on target on 4 out of 21 throws beyond 10 yards. As everybody knows, you can’t start in this league with those type of numbers. But what can Bagent do? As a QB2, he’s the type of guy that can keep the team on the tracks and win 1 or 2 games if your QB1 is out 3 or 4 games, so your season doesn’t derail. That’s a great value on a UDFA contract, it’s just not something you can have out of your starting quarterback.
LH: The offseason signings of Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards seems to be paying dividends. How would you grade their performances so far this season? And do you think they’re living up to their contracts?
BZ: TJ Edwards is absolutely living up to his contract He’s been one of the Bears best performers on the defensive side of the ball for most of the season, although Austin Ekeler certainly beat him badly a couple of times on Sunday Night Football. Tremaine Edmunds has played better the last couple of games, but he was largely just a body the first several games of the season and to this point, Edmunds has not lived up to his contract.
Edwards I would give a B and Edmunds I would give a C-. My bigger issue is committing $25 million a year to your linebackers when you have major issues in front of them on the defensive line. I’m not one for giving big dollars to off-ball linebackers so I wasn’t in love with this strategy. The Bears have now spent 6 2nd round picks on defense since Ryan Poles took over as their GM. They’ve also spent big at linebacker, traded for Montez Sweat and signed Demarcus Walker and Yannick Ngakoue to fairly decent sized deals. At some point, when you invest this much in the defense, you need to be seeing better returns than the Bears are getting.
LH: Chicago is third in the league in rushing defense, allowing just 78.8 rushing yards per game. What is it about this defense that makes them so stingy against the run?
BZ: Well, when you have one of the highest paid linebacking rooms in the league, that certainly helps, and the issue up front on the defensive line is that a lot of these guys are run stoppers and not strong in pass rush. Andrew Billings is a load in the middle on rushing downs. Demarcus Walker does a good job on rushing downs. Even a rotational guy like Rasheem Green is a solid run stopper. Their issue is they have no pass rush. We will see if Montez Sweat brings immediate dividends in that department because their pressure rates are terrible, and they only have 10 sacks on the season (Texans are 31st with 15).
So yes, I would expect the Saints to struggle running the football against this front seven. However, unless Sweat has a monstrous debut for Chicago, the lack of a pass rush is going to allow Derek Carr to be quite comfortable in the pocket and he should be able to pick apart the Bears defense pretty easily. Look at what Justin Herbert did on Sunday night football. That’s been a major problem for the Bears all season long.
LH: DraftKings Sportsbook currently has the Bears as 8-point underdogs. Do you think they cover this weekend?
BZ: I do not. Since Matt Eberflus has taken over, the Bears have five wins in 25 games. Of those five wins, they’ve beaten Trey Lance, Davis Mills, Mac Jones, Sam Howell and Brian Hoyer. They simply don’t have the talent to defeat average or better quarterbacks. So, with Derek Carr on offense and the Saints stingy defense, I think this doesn’t match-up well for the Bears. I suggested on my podcast that the Saints win and cover, and I threw out a final score of 24-13.
Thank you again to Bill for joining us this week! You can view the rest of his work here.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.