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The four-time NFC South champion New Orleans Saints (12-4) embark on yet another playoff run, starting Sunday against the recently resurgent Chicago Bears (8-8) in the Superdome.

 

For the Saints, the stakes are high because their quarterback is 41-year-old Drew Brees, who has become synonymous with New Orleans during the past 15 seasons. Brees brought the football-obsessed community it's lone major pro sports championship 11 seasons ago, and became the NFL's all-time leader in yards passing. Brees will turn 42 on Jan. 15 and hasn't committed to playing beyond this season, so each game could be his last.

 

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky, now in his fourth NFL season, is in the playoffs for just the second time after what was a turbulent 2020 for him.

 

Trubisky was benched earlier this season and has started just nine games. But the Bears went 6-3 in those games, with three victories in four games to close the regular season and sneak into the playoffs.

 

The Saints' 2,265 yards rushing are the most since the Payton era began 2006. The defense ranks fourth and tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with 18.

 

The Bears will likely need a dynamic performance from a defense that ranked among the top 10 for much of the season if they're going to knock out the high-powered Saints. The problem is that group isn't producing momentum-changing plays as much as it would like.

 

The Bears tied for 25th in the NFL in takeaways with 18 and were middle of the road in sacks with 35, 17th in the league.

 

Two-time Pro Bowl safety Eddie Jackson had no interceptions for the first time in his career after picking off 10 passes over his first three seasons. Khalil Mack, a three-time All-Pro, had nine sacks - his second straight year in single digits. And Robert Quinn had just two sacks, down from 11 1/2 for Dallas last season.

 

Brees, receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara could all be back on the field together on Sunday - something circumstances have largely prevented this season. Thomas has missed nine games, largely because of an ankle injury. Brees has missed four games with rib and lung issues. Kamara was out last week because of COVID-19.

 

They haven't all played together since Brees was injured in Week 10.

 

While Thomas, the 2019 AP Offensive Player of the Year, has returned to practice, Kamara is not scheduled to return to the team until game day and won't practice all week.

 

Bears star receiver Allen Robinson went from matching a career-high with 10 receptions in a win over Jacksonville to catching a season-low two passes for 37 yards in the loss to Green Bay last week.

 

Considering his dominant form for much of the season, the Bears would like to get him more involved - if he's healthy. The Bears listed Robinson as missing some practice time this week because of a hamstring injury.

 

Robinson's 102 receptions this season were a career-high. And his 1,250 yards were second only to the 1,400 he had with Jacksonville in his 2015 Pro Bowl season - his second year in the NFL.

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