This is most definitely a tale of two stories; the Saints (6-0 in their respected division) narrowly missing out on the coveted number one seed, whereas the Bears squeezed in through the back door, having to rely on a loss by the Arizona Cardinals. Chicago could have made it on their own merit but succumbed to a 35-16 defeat themselves against their rivals the Green Bay Packers.
NFC Wild Card Redemption Story?
The Bears will be looking for revenge for their 26-23 overtime loss to the Saints in week eight.
The omen isn’t looking great for the Bears going into the NFC Wild Card game, they are currently on a six-game losing streak against the Saints, their last win coming back in 2008.
The most memorable game in recent history between the teams was the 20-12 Bears loss in 2017. In that game Chicago tight end, Zach Miller was victim to a horrific career-ending injury after dislocating his leg attempting a red-zone catch.
Prominent Bears and Saints Hope to Return
After an impressive week 16 performance where Alvin Kamara went off for 155 rushing yards and six TDs against the Vikings, Kamara missed week 17 due to covid-19. His ten-day isolation period ends on game day, so the Saints will be hoping their star running back, will pass all the relevant checks to make the roster.
Another possible Saints returnee is their WR1 Michael Thomas, who may be coming back from his three-week stint on injured reserve.
The Bears’ biggest concern is the fitness of star linebacker, and in many fans’ eyes, their MVP of the season, Roquan Smith. The young defender out of Georgia was forced out of the game in the first quarter of their week 17 loss to the Packers with an injury to his elbow and the team is still waiting to hear news on the severity of the injury.
NFC Wild Card Keys To Victory
The Saints will be looking to old reliable Drew Brees. The Bears defense looked very suspect against another veteran quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, only managing one sack and three tackles for loss. They also had several dropped interception attempts, to boot. They will need to apply far more pressure on the Brees. During their Week eight meeting, the Bears managed to limit Kamara to just 67 rushing yards with no TDs, this again will be the difference between a win or a loss for the Bears.
On the other side of the ball, the question is how much pressure the Saints defense can put on Mitch Trubisky. The Bears’ offensive line has improved drastically in recent weeks, only giving up one sack a game over the last three.
This will be key for the Bears, as well. In week 17, Trubisky attempted to throw the ball on 18 more occasions than Rodgers, for just 12 extra yards. This was all while being outscored four touchdown passes to none. This will need addressing for the Bears to stand any chance of claiming the win, with David Montgomery and the offensive line carrying the offense in recent games. Allen Robinson and Jimmy Graham were nonexistent against the Packers but both will need big games if they are to progress from the NFC Wild Card round.
NFC Wild Card Game Stakes
The Saints will be going into the NFC Wild Card round as strong favorites, so they have high stakes to not lose the game.
As for the Bears, the likes of Trubisky and Robinson will have their futures to play for. Trubisky is not guaranteed to be offered an extension, and Robinson is free agent at years end, as well. A good playoff run would be huge for both these players and the organization.