Before the season started, I predicted that the Saints would be the best team in the NFL this year. Now, the Saints have a long way to go before winning the Super Bowl from here, but I knew they would be a great team. Before the Saints and Los Angeles Rams faced off a few weeks ago, the general consensus of fans and media believed the Rams to be the NFL’s top team. But then, the Saints handled the Rams, asserting themselves as the league’s best team.
And then, in what will go down as one of the all-time classic games in NFL history, the Rams defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 54-51(!) (a total of 105 points scored). Now, the Rams are the second best team in the NFL, behind the Saints, and just ahead of the Chiefs.
But, what makes these Saints so good? Is it Drew Brees, Sean Payton, the offense, the defense, which one? What makes them so good, is that they are good at virtually everything.
When it comes to Sean Payton, many around the NFL say that Payton is top-notch as far as offensive minds go.
When it comes to Drew Brees, I’d say he’s the best quarterback in the NFL right now (at least in the NFC), and he is being extremely disrespected in the G.O.A.T. conversation (but that’s a song for another time).
The defense is also no joke. They are being led by 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year cornerback Marshon Lattimore and standout pass rushers Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport.
Where do the Saints rank in some of these major categories?
Offensively, they rank 4th in net yards gained with 4,271 (427.1/game), they sit at 3rd in total points scored with 378 (good for 1st in pts/game with 37.8), they are 5th best in converting third downs at 47.0%, they rank 6th in the NFL in both passing yards and rushing yards, and they are tied for 6th in the league in giveaway/takeaway differential (+5 along with Indianapolis and Carolina).
Defensively, they rank 3rd against the rush, and middle of the pack in most other categories. But, the thing is, they’ve been plenty good enough to sustain success with that offense. Although this defense looks pretty average, they are coming along nicely. They’re coming off a game in which they held the Philadelphia Eagles to 7 points en route to a 48-7 rout. Of course, they were playing the Eagles, who are much worse than I thought they would be, but they handled a bad offense like any good defense should. And this unit is simply too talented and too well coordinated (Dennis Allen) to not have success.
“Isaac, you haven’t gotten to your point yet. You’re wasting our time!” I get it, confused reader. I get it. I’m about to get into that now.
Before I tell you what this mystery team is, let me give you some team stats.
Offensively, this team ranks 16th in total net yards, but is 6th in total points scored and points per game (294, 29.4), 10th in 3rd down conversion % (43.5%), and first in giveaway/takeaway differential with +13.
There is a reason the offense racks up so many points yet is average in gaining yards: it’s because their defense is constantly setting the offense up in favorable spots on the field. Defensively, this team is 3rd in total yards allowed with 3,144 (314.4/game), they are tied for 11th (Carolina) against the pass with 2,366 yards allowed (236.6/game), 1st against the rush with 778 yards allowed (77.8/game), and 4th in points allowed with 195 (19.5/game). They are also 1st in total takeaways with 27.
This team is the Chicago Bears. This is something I will try to feature in future articles. It’s called a blind resume. You see all the stats without knowing the team. All biases made impossible.
The Bears must frustrate the NFL a lot. The league keeps trying to legislate defense out of the game, yet this Chicago team keeps building these top level defenses that terrorize opposing offenses. The Bears “zig” where the rest of the league “zags.” Most relevant teams in the NFL are offense-oriented and try to beat other good teams by out-drawing them in a shootout. The Bears, while they are top 5 in offensive scoring, are still a defensive-oriented team. When you think about it, they are the only team with a truly elite defense in the league.
It’s fair to think, “Well, who has Chicago beaten outside of the Vikings?” Remember, they beat the Seahawks, a playoff contender, in Week 2. In Week 4, they demolished the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who at that point were the hottest team in the NFL. They were scoring 30+ points every game and Ryan Fitzpatrick was throwing for 400+ yards every game. They scored 10 points against the Bears and Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for just over 100 yards before getting benched in favor of Jameis Winston at halftime. In Week 7, they narrowly lost to the Patriots in a weird game that they probably should have won, and since then, they’ve won five games in a row, including the owning of the New York Jets, a 41-9 demolishing of the Buffalo Bills (both of the last two games without Khalil Mack and star wide receiver Allen Robinson), and then they beat the Detroit Lions twice and Minnesota Vikings all in a span of 12 days, the Vikings game and second Lions game just 85 hours apart. That is what good teams do.
It is extremely hard to beat three divisional opponents in a 12 day span, especially when the final game is just hours after the second game.
The Bears have a big test coming up in Week 14 against the Los Angeles Rams, an offensive juggernaut, on Sunday Night Football in the friendly confines of Soldier Field, a game which I believe the Bears can win. Think about it, an offensive team from LA coming up to play an elite defense as well as a top 5 offense in cold, possibly snowy weather in a hostile environment in primetime. This has “trap game” written all over it for the Rams.
We will know then whether the Bears are true Super Bowl contenders, but until then, I’ll say they are.
*All statistics provided as of Tuesday, November 20*