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SAINTS AT BEARS -2.5 43
NFC TITLE GAME - Jan 21, 2007
In this years NFC title game, a case can certainly be made for either side, with perhaps the stronger argument being made for the Saints. We'll take a look a both sides below. From a personal standpoint, as mentioned in a previous write up, we're holding a futures ticket on the Bears at 12-1 to win the Super Bowl. So, we'll be passing this game from a betting standpoint and will take our chances on the Bears to at least win this one and get to the big game. We feel they can pull it off but it certainly won't be easy.
It's relatively simple to make a case for the Saints here. They are by far, the logical choice. Judging from recent performances, they would seem to have too many offensive weapons for the Bears to deal with. It's not like playing a team like the Giants for example, where you can key on Tiki Barber and force Manning to beat you. Key on Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister can beat you. Key on McAllister and Bush can beat you. Somehow manage to contain both backs and Drew Brees will pick apart your secondary. With the Saints, you really don't worry too much about the defense because you have the high powered offense to bail you out. That would seem to be the blue print for the Saints in this one. Put a few points on the board and make the Bears play from behind.
Do the Bears have a chance?
Well, sure. No doubt it's somewhat disturbing when you compare the Bears defense of the first half of the year with the Bears defense down the stretch. They gave up an average of 26 points per game over the last 5 games of the year. Compare that to an average of 7 points per game over the first 5 games of the year! If you can take anything positive out of that, it would be that the Bears were still 4-1 over the course of that last 5 game stretch and had already had home field in the bag for a couple of those games. The one they lost for example, meant nothing. So again, here's an NFL team that lost only 2 meaningful games all year long. They have done it with defense and low and behold, with offense. You have to worry about the Bears chances when you consider that a banged up Seattle team was able to come into their building and almost knock them off. The Saints are healthy, and pose much more of an offensive threat than the banged up Seahawks did.
I wouldn't worry too much about Grossman and the Bears offense. They should be able to move the ball and put some points on the board. There is a weakness or two in the Saints secondary that the Bears should be able to take advantage of. If the Bears are going to win this game, it falls squarely on the shoulders of the Bear defense. Something resembling the Bears defense of the first half of the year HAS to show up Sunday for the Bears to take this. When you look at the key plays that end up deciding this game, they will be defensive, and of the two teams, the Bears have the better chance of being that team. This defense is capable of some big plays. I have seen it all year long. They even stepped up a time or two against the Seahawks. The Bears need to grab an early lead and always play from ahead, which will in turn make the defense even more effective. The thing you don't want to happen if your the Bears, or a Bears backer, is to fall behind early and have to play catch up. If that happens, that's when you'll see all kinds of forced plays and mistakes from Grossman and company.
So to sum up, if you're the Saints, score early and often. Do that and the Bears will have difficulty staying in the game. If you're the Bears, score early, take the lead, and make that defense from September and October come to life. Take advantage of the home field and the elements. You have to believe that this Bears defense has at least one huge game left in them.
As I mentioned above, I personally won't be playing this game. I have an earlier investment on the Bears that I am going to let ride. If I felt very strongly that the Saints were the right side, I would hedge off of this position. Sticking with the original position at this point, is the right play.
Good Luck for all of those who do decide to play this one!