Desperate Times for Thursday Combatants

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by - 12/11/2008 3:12 PM Share

After playing for the NFC championship in 2006, New Orleans and Chicago are in danger of missing the playoffs for a second straight season. Both teams will post a better record than last year's 7-9 mark, but the way the conference is shaping up it could take as many as 10 victories to qualify for postseason play, which means the loser is probably all but done.

In the suddenly strapping NFC South, New Orleans (9-4 ATS) sits alone in last place with a record of 7-6. A 29-25 home win over Atlanta kept its slim playoff hopes alive while dropping the surprising Falcons to 8-5. If the Saints were in the NFC North they'd have fewer hurdles to climb.

New Orleans has struggled mightily in true road tilts, winning just one of six games while allowing an average of 28.3 points per game. The Saints gave up 29 points in Washington, 34 in Denver, 30 in Carolina, 34 in Atlanta, 20 in Kansas City and 23 in Tampa Bay. Their offense, which ranks first in the NFL in total yards (405.8 per game), overcame the defensive deficiency only against the Chiefs. The offense drops four points per game as visitors and the Saints are 2-5 ATS off a straight up win. Including the aforementioned NFC title game, it's the third straight year the Saints will play in blustery conditions at Soldier Field.

At 7-6 after beating Jacksonville, the Bears (6-6-1 ATS) are just one game behind first-place Minnesota. Chicago advanced to Super Bowl XLI with a 39-14 triumph over New Orleans on Jan. 21, 2007, then 11 months later won last year's regular-season finale by a 33-25 margin. Chicago survived each time despite allowing Drew Brees to pass for more than 300 yards. He had 354 yards in the playoff game and 320 more last Dec. 30, but he received little support from the defense and special teams. Chicago is 6-0 ATS in home games vs. good passing teams with a completion percentage of 61 percent or better in the second half of the season.

Brees, who seems capable of throwing for 300 yards in his sleep, will test a Chicago pass defense that ranks 28th in the league. The best thing the Bears can do to counter is control the time of possession with busy rookie running back Matt Forte, who has been a bright spot with 1,476 total yards and 10 touchdowns. The Bears rookie has a good balance of speed and power, which allows him to break tackles and make guys miss. He also is a harder hitter than people realize.

Bookmaker.com has Chicago as a three-point choice with a total of 45. The Bears off last week's win are 2-9 ATS after a victory. The total could be important with Chicago 16-4 OVER as a home favorite since 2006 and New Orleans 15-5 OVER in road games off a home win against a division rival.

This will be another NFL Network contest starting at 8:15 Eastern and a number of Thursday night angles appear. When both teams were favored in prior contest, the UNDER is 12-6. Another situation shows when both clubs were favored in last game, the home team is 14-6-1 ATS. The Saints are ungodly 1-7 ATS on this day of the week.

StatFox Forecaster- New Orleans covers
StatFox Power Line- New Orleans by 2
StatFox OutPlay Factor- Chicago by 1

By: Staff Writer - StatFox


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