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Saints try to stay unbeaten Sunday at Chicago
By: Brian Graham - StatFox
Published: 10/6/2013  at  2:53:00 AM
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NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (4-0)
at CHICAGO BEARS (3-1)

Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Line: Chicago -1, Total: 41

The struggling Bears defense faces another major test when the undefeated Saints pay a visit to Soldier Field on Sunday.

Chicago has allowed 278 passing YPG on 8.0 yards per attempt this season, which doesn’t bode well facing New Orleans QB Drew Brees, who is averaging 359 passing YPG with 10 TD so far this season. The Bears defense does lead the NFL with 14 takeaways though, and the offense has been rolling all season with 31.8 PPG and 352 total YPG despite turning the ball over four times in two of their past three games. Chicago’s four-game series win streak ended in 2011 at the Superdome when Brees threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-13 thrashing. While the Bears are relatively healthy for Sunday, the Saints are coming off a short week and could be missing RB Mark Ingram (toe), WR Lance Moore (hand), CB Keenan Lewis (leg) and S Roman Harper (knee). New Orleans is 11-2 ATS (85%) versus poor passing defenses (235+ passing YPG allowed) in the past three seasons, but is just 2-4 ATS (33%) in its past six road games. Chicago is 7-3 SU in its past 10 home games, but is only 1-5-2 ATS in the past eight contests at Soldier Field. The Bears are also a dismal 4-19 ATS (17%) after scoring 25+ points in two straight games since 1992.

Which high-powered passing offense will prevail on Sunday? For the answer, connect to NFL Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 season and playoffs. The experts are coming off a monster Week 4 in NFL Best Bets, combining for a 67% ATS record (10-5-2), highlighted by StatFox Gary's perfect 4-0-1 ATS mark. StatFox Scott was a perfect 5-0 in NFL Totals, increasing his season record to 69% (11-5). Gary went 3-1 in NFL Totals, which actually lowered his yearly percentage to 77% (10-3).

Drew Brees is a big reason why his Saints rank second in the NFL in time of possession (34:16) and fourth in total offense (420 total YPG). He has completed 67% of his passes for 1,434 yards on 8.6 yards per attempt, numbers which all rank among the top-four quarterbacks in the league. The one negative is that Brees has absorbed 12 sacks in his four games. TE Jimmy Graham continues to be nearly impossible to cover. He already has 27 catches (on 42 targets) for 458 yards and 6 TD. He has scored a touchdown in all four games and has a current streak of three games of 100+ receiving yards. RB Darren Sproles also topped the century mark last week with 114 yards on seven catches (16.3 average), while scoring both on the ground and through the air. Despite the Saints' potent passing attack, their run game has been dismal with 81 rushing YPG (25th in NFL) on 3.4 yards per carry (27th in league). This lack of a reliable short-yardage back is why New Orleans possesses a poor red-zone efficiency (44%, 26th in NFL) and goal-to-go efficiency (57%, T-24th in league). Four rushers have between 16 and 29 carries, with RB Pierre Thomas the only player above 100 yards (101) and rookie RB Khiry Robinson having the best average with 4.7 YPC. The Saints defense has undergone a truly remarkable turnaround from last season when they allowed an NFL-record 440 total YPG. Under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, that number has been trimmed to 305 YPG this season, good for 6th-best in the NFL. The key to this improvement has been a league-leading 25:43 defensive time of possession and 16.8 first downs per game allowed (4th in NFL). The Saints have also produced 10 takeaways already this season, including four in their Monday night win.

Jay Cutler has been very comfortable in the offense of new head coach Marc Trestman, as he has received much better protection from his offensive line. After being sacked 2.83 times per game from 2010 to 2012, Cutler has hit the deck just six times in four contests (1.50 per game) in 2013. However, the veteran signal caller regressed last week with three sacks taken and three interceptions thrown in the loss at Detroit. But Cutler will be happy to return home where he's completed 68% of his passes for 534 yards (7.5 YPA) and 5 TD to go along with 3 INT. While WR Brandon Marshall is his top receiver in targets (41), catches (27), receiving yards (348) and yards per catch (12.9), three others have also seen more than 25 targets this season, WR Alshon Jeffery (32 targets), TE Martellus Bennett (32 targets) and RB Matt Forte (26 targets). Forte has also done an excellent job carrying the football with 320 yards on 4.6 YPC and three scores. On the defensive side of the ball, Chicago's aggressive defense has forced at least three turnovers in every game this season, but in doing so, continues to give up too many big plays. The Bears have surrendered 8.0 yards per pass attempt (4th-most in NFL) and 6.1 yards per play (5th-most in league). Not allowing the Saints playmakers to get deep down the field will be a key in containing this potent offense.

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