Urlacher must get to Brees early
Brian Urlacher is one of the NFLs best linebackers but even with him leading the Chicago Bears defence it will take a mighty effort to stop Drew Brees and New Orleans' top-rated offence.
Urlacher is one of only five players to win both the NFL defensive rookie of the year and NFL defensive player of the year awards and, with classy corners Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman backing him up, Chicago have a strong look about them.
Urlacher has not been having the best of seasons, on course for less than 100 tackles for the first time in his career (in 2004 he made 70 tackles but only played 9 games), however his influence is irreplaceable for Chicago.
It is this type of influence that has kept the Bears in with a chance of playing in the post-season. They currently sit second in the NFC North, a game behind the Minnesota Vikings, but given that most pundits had written them off as no-hopers they have performed remarkably well.
They will certainly need all facets of their defence to be firing on all cylinders against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night if they are to continue their challenge for the divisional title.
The Saints have been irresistable on the offensive side of things this year with Brees putting up MVP numbers, while Pierre Thomas has proved to be a more than able replacement for Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush is showing signs of being back to his very best.
Brees, virtually single-handedly, has kept New Orleans in the play-off hunt, averaging over 310 passing yards per game but, of late, the team surrounding him has been steadily improving.
They are currently bottom of the NFC South, a few games off the pace, so their task is simple. Win every game or face early elimination.
It seems set for a great battle, tough defence against expert offence, and despite the old school of thought that good defence will triumph over offence, it is hard to back the Bears, even though they have home-field advantage.
The Saints are great value at 13/10 to win if Brees can take the cold weather in his stride, while 4/6 about Chicago is tough to back.
In terms of total match points, 10/11 about more than 45 points being scored looks the most likely option, especially if you take into consideration that the Saints are second in the league for average points per game.