The New Orleans Saints (5-8) come to Soldier Field for a Monday night showdown with the Chicago Bears (5-8). Here is a breakdown of Chicago's Week 15 opponent:
What's new:The New Orleans defense struggled in 2012, when it ranked 31st and 32nd, respectively, in yards and points allowed. Last season, the Saints went from the outhouse to the penthouse, finishing the season ranked fourth in both categories. This year, however, it's back to the basement. The Saints rank 31st in yards (398.7 per game) and 30th in points (27.6), a main reason the team is in a battle to reach the postseason after advancing to the divisional round last winter. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan runs an attacking scheme based on pressuring opposing offensive lines, but the plans have not been well executed. New Orleans ranks last in the league in third-down defense and has just 13 takeaways, a recipe for disaster for a unit that has also suffered some key injuries over the course of the season.
What's old:There has been speculation that the Saints will be in the market next spring for a young quarterback to develop behind longtime starter Drew Brees. The 35-year old signal caller is still performing at an elite level, but the Saints offense as a whole is not what it once was, and Brees is closer to the end of his career than the start. New Orleans has struggled to score at times this season, including putting up just seven points last Sunday in a home loss to Carolina, and some believe Brees is past his prime. To his credit, the quarterback still has strong numbers this season, throwing 28 touchdowns and leading the league with a 69.3 completion percentage.
**Last time out:
**It wasn't too long ago that the Saints were unstoppable at the Superdome, going 25-7 on their home field from 2010-2013. That hasn't been the case this year, as the team has lost four in a row in New Orleans. The most recent defeat was the most embarrassing, as the Saints were blown out by the lowly Panthers 41-10. Carolina ran for 271 yards in the victory, while the New Orleans offense floundered, turning the ball over on its first two drives.
Series history:Monday's meeting will be the 29th all-time between the Bears and Saints. Chicago holds a 15-13 lead; the teams are even in regular season games, while the Bears have won both postseason contests, including the 2006 NFC Championship. In the most recent meeting, on October 6, 2013, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was the difference-maker. Graham had 10 receptions for 135 yards as New Orleans controlled the ball for 36 minutes in a 26-18 win.
Ex-factor:The only Bear to previously suit up for the Saints is left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who protected Brees' blind side for six seasons before signing with Chicago in 2013. Fellow offensive lineman Brian de la Puente also played for the Saints, but he is on injured reserve.
On the New Orleans sideline, the person with the strongest Bears connection is coach Sean Payton. The Naperville-native appeared in three games for Chicago as a quarterback during the NFL players strike in 1987, throwing for 79 yards and an interception.
Injury report:In their loss to the Panthers, the Saints suffered a rash of injuries. Left tackle Terron Armstead left the game with a neck injury and defensive end Junior Galette - who leads the team in sacks with seven - had to sub out because of a lower-leg injury. Their status for Monday's game is unknown. New Orleans' top cornerback, Keenan Lewis, also missed the second half against Carolina because of cramps, but he should be back in action against Chicago.
Did you know?:The Bears are no strangers to the bright lights of 'Monday Night Football.' The organization has played 63 all-time games on Mondays, with the first coming on October 5, 1970. Chicago holds a 28-35 record in those games, including victories in 10 of the last 12 matchups, and five straight wins at Soldier Field.
During that time, the Bears have played against 17 different teams. (The most-common opponents have been Minnesota and Green Bay, who have faced Chicago 12 times each on 'MNF.'). That does not include New Orleans, as Monday's game will be the first-ever Monday meeting between the Bears and Saints. In fact, the Saints are the first NFC South opponent the Bears have ever faced in this setting.