Chicago, Ill.January 21, 2007
The improbable NFC Championship matchup between the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints is now a reality that will have football fans all over the country tuned in to see if the Saints, the team all of America is pulling for, can continue their surprising Cinderella season or if the big, bad Bears, can make the clock strike 12 and take another step towards their stated goal of reaching and winning next month’s Super Bowl XLI.
This, classic, offense vs. defense showdown could go down as one of the most memorable NFC championship matchups ever and at the very least, should provide ample entertainment for three and a half hours.
Here is a look at the upcoming game, both point spreads and a prediction on the outcome.
Chicago Bears (14-3)
The Bears, who were lucky to escape with their win ove the Seattle Seahawks, will try to do waht they’ve been doing all year long – run the ball effectively with their pair of bruising running backs, Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson, while throwing the ball just enough with oft-maligned quarterback, Rex Grossman.
If Chicago can move the ball consistently on the ground, then the Saints will have their work more than cut out for them and Grossman should be able to complete more high percentage passes.
Defensively, the Bears will be facing the most complete offensive team in the league this season. If Chicago can pressure and hurry New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees into some quick throws, while simultaneously shutting down the Saints equally potent two-headed rushing attack, then they will walk away the winners of this contest. However, accomplishing all of these taks are easier said than done, even for Chicago’s powerful defense.
New Orleans Saints (11-6)
Defesnively, New Orleans will have their hands full with the Bears own combination of running backs, Jones and Benson. If the Saints can stop the run (they can’t) and unleash some pressure on Grossman (they can) they could win this game outright. If they can’t stop the run, expect Chicago head coach, Lovie Smith to call one run after another.
The Line: New Orleans +3 At Chicago Over/Under 43.5
This game could boil down to a field goal, which leads me to believe the Saints will cover. However, something in the back of my mind keeps whispering “Chicago, Chicago” and as a former bettor who won big every season, I have to go with that little voice, which has been right way too many times for me to count. Take the Bears to win and cover, 24-17, keeping this game under the 43.5 over/under line.
As bad as I want the Saints to win, I just don’t see it happening in this game, although I think these teams are fairly evenly matched. Looking at all three areas, (offense, defense and special teams) the Bears are unequivocally better on defense and special teams, where young return man, Devin Hester gives Chicago the edge as well.
The Saints have one of the top three quarterbacks on the planet in Drew Brees and two explosive running backs in Deuce McCallister and Reggie Bush. New Orleans also has a quartet of wide receives, led by rookie Marques Colston and veteran Joe Horn, who know how to hold on to the ball and make both, the spectacular and routine catches on a regular basis.