Bears vs Saints Preview: Inside the Numbers

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Chicago Bears outside linebacker Lance Briggs (55) and cornerback Charles Tillman (33) at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears, from a pure talent standpoint, are overmatched on defense. However, Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, and Julius Peppers can keep the game close by forcing the Saints to turn the ball over. Peppers had a monster game last week that helped raise his PFF grade to (4.7), now twelfth in the NFL. Bears fans might not want to hear this, but Tillman has been brutal thus far in 2013. Now he has been hampered by illness and injury, but his (-6.5) grade ranks 98th out of 101 eligible cornerbacks. Peanut’s been solid against the run, but a (-6.2) coverage rating might suggest that he’s lost a step. Though he has seemingly held his own against A.J. Green, Antonio Brown, and Calvin Johnson, Tillman’s situation is worth monitoring. A well-timed “Peanut Punch” will more than make up for deficiencies in the corner’s coverage. Could Father Time be catching up to Briggs as well? In 2012, Briggs posted a (12.1) grade; third best in the league. This year, he sits at (-1.4), with 19 outside ‘backers ahead of him. Number 55 has blitzed with more regularity under Tucker’s leadership, however.

Jay Cutler & Co. took a step backward in Week 4 and will not have an easy time with a vastly improved Saints defense. Rob Ryan has taken an historically bad unit and turned them into the fourth-best squad. According to PFF, the Saints’  (22.5) defensive grade ranks higher than the more-heralded San Francisco outfit. By comparison, the Bears have a (-25.6) grade, 27th in the league. New Orleans, like the Lions, possesses formidable pass-rushers, like Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette. These two might not be Ndamukong Suh and Ziggy Ansah, but Jordan is the second-best 3-4 DE behind J.J. Watt and Galette’s pass-rush grade trumps Terrell Suggs’ marks. The Bears had success running against Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defensive front in Week 3 and it appears a similar game plan could take root on Sunday. Chicago maintains a top ten rushing grade from PFF, despite a middling (-3.2) run block grade. The difference between these two varied stats remains Matt Forte’s immense talent. He’s a top ten back and should be utilized as such if the Bears want to keep the explosive Saints offense off the field and, thus, out of the end zone. Establishing the run will be the Bears’ top priority on offense and forcing turnovers remains paramount on defense.

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