The 4-2 Saints have won four consecutive games for the first time since 2013, placing them atop the NFC South, and they have done it with textbook, run-pass balance on offense and a young, opportunistic defense rankled by being ridiculed for the last three seasons as the team's collective ball-and-chain.
The 3-4 Bears have won back-to-back games relying on a suffocating defense, but their offense seems like a throwback to the black-and-white newsreels of the 1940s -- if only the forward pass were involved.
In beating the Carolina Panthers 17-3 last week, the Bears scored both touchdowns on defense -- an interception and a fumble return -- and rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky completed just four passes while throwing only seven times.
The Bears ran 37 plays against Carolina and accounted for a mere five first downs and 153 yards of total offense. Trubisky, 2-1 as a starter, is the first NFL quarterback to win a game completing fewer than five passes since Tim Tebow went 2 of 8 in a 17-10 victory over Kansas City in 2011.
Trubisky will be matching skills with Drew Brees, who has thrown for more than 5,000 yards in a season five times. Brees understands the Bears have pressured the quarterback and stuffed the run, and he touted the Chicago secondary for its playmaking ability, especially safety Eddie Jackson for his two defensive touchdowns against Carolina last week.
Brees went the first four games of the season without an interception, but he threw two in the first half last week against Green Bay before settling down and leading the Saints to scores on their first four possessions of the second half. The Saints ran the ball effectively (35 carries, 161 yards), and Brees threw 38 times for 324 yards.
The Saints held three players out of practice on Wednesday: receiver Michael Thomas (knee), tackle Terron Armstead (shoulder) and guard Larry Warford (abdomen). Warford is expected to miss Sunday's game.
The Bears held out five players from practice: corner Sherrick McManis (hamstring), linebacker John Timu (ankle/knee), receiver Markus Wheaton (groin), guard Kyle Long (ankle) and defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris (hamstring). Long had offseason surgery on his ankle.