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Saints at Bears: Five things to watch

5-8 teams meet on 'Monday Night Football'

  1. Apparently, the benching of second-year safety Kenny Vaccarohas been greatly exaggerated. The New Orleans Saints will need him Monday night against Chicago, because he's the most experienced and talented safety remaining. Perhaps further fueled by a talk with Coach Sean Payton,*Vaccaro could be primed to have a big impact against the Bears. Admittedly, he hasn't followed his rookie season with the progress that he, and everyone else, expected. But it's not as if he isn't capable, and the Bears will present a plethora of challenges that a player of Vaccaro's caliber can handle. The Bears will be without injured receiverBrandon Marshall, which will help, but still have potent weapons in the passing game. Vaccaro could be tasked with shadowing Bears running backMatt Forte*, a former Tulane standout who has 86 receptions this season.
  1. The Saints' offense managed just 110 yards through the first three quarters, and a season-low 310 yards in the game, against Carolina. For the sake of comparison, Drew Brees has six 300-yard passing games this season; no one is accustomed to seeing the Saints offense held to such miniscule production. The Bears allow 377.8 yards per game (265.5 passing), so this looks like a good time for a bounce-back offensive game for New Orleans. Additionally, opposing quarterbacks complete 66.5 percent of their passes against the Bears and have thrown 30 touchdowns, with just 11 interceptions. The Saints will have to deal with the weather (high-30s, windy, 60-plus percent chance of rain) and footing (Soldier Field can be pretty chewed up this time of year), but they've handled themselves better on the road than at home lately. Here's a chance for a third consecutive road win.
  1. The numbers say that the Saints offense had better be ready to score, because the defense hasn't been ready to produce stops. In the last five games – four of them losses – the Saints have allowed 32.2 points and 443.8 yards per game. And the last five teams have rushed for 919 yards on 163 carries, an average of 5.6 yards per carry. The Bears, obviously, will see how much production they can get from Forte, who has 854 yards and six touchdowns on 214 carries. He also has 86 catches for 724 yards and three scores. New Orleans, which is allowing 133.5 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards per attempt, hasn't had much success making the last several opponents one-dimensional. It'll try to do so again Monday.

4. Mark Ingramcontinues to bear watching for the Saints. With 810 rushing yards on 182 attempts, he already has career highs in each category and has posted the Saints' best rushing season since Deuce McAllisterran for 1,057 yards on 244 carries in 2006. That's the last 1,000-yard rushing season for a Saint, and Ingram has an outside chance to reach the mark. He has been held to 67 yards or less in three of the last four games, but the Bears allow 112.3 per game and 4.3 per rushing attempt.

5. Frankly, the Saints didn't look like a desperate team in their 41-10 home loss to Carolina. From Coach Sean Paytonon down, everyone expressed surprise that New Orleans, considering the stakes, played its worst game of the season. The Saints still control their own destiny and still have a golden opportunity to win the NFC South Division, but they need to be the team that showed up in Pittsburgh, rather than the one that played against Carolina. The guess is that they'll have significantly more bounce in their step against the Bears.

Official team photos of Saintsations from the New Orleans Saints vs Carolina Panthers game on Sunday, December 7, 2014. Photos by Michael C. Hebert (New Orleans Saints photos)

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