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What to watch for in Saints-Bears 'MNF' tilt

This week's Monday Night Footballmatchup features two of the NFL's most disappointing teams, trudging through turmoil as the regular season winds down.

Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer was compelled to tearfully apologize in front of the entire team following NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport's report that the team's brass has a case of "buyer's remorse" regarding the quarterback's mega contract.

Rapoport outlined the pervasive dysfunction within an organization that plans to scapegoat the defensive coordinator in addition to reviewing Kromer's status after the season.

By that standard, Saints coach Sean Payton's week was rather tame. All he did was call 10 players to his office for review, cut wide receiver Joseph Morgan and send a message to young safety Kenny Vaccaro.

Here's what we're watching for as the Saints travel to Chicago on Monday night:

  1. Will New Orleans take control of a wide-open NFC South? Following Atlanta's loss on Sunday, the Saints have the opportunity to take sole possession of first place with a Week 16 clash versus the Falcons on the horizon. Armed with the NFL's easiest remaining strength of schedule, Payton's troops control their own destiny.
  1. Lost in the bizarre soap opera featuring Kromer and Cutler is the possibility that the quarterback might have to show well in the final two games to cement his status as the franchise quarterback. Leading the NFL in lost fumbles and second in interceptions, Cutler has failed to top 28 points in any game this season after Kromer's offense went over the 30 mark six times in 2013. With several teams in need of quarterback upgrades, Rapoport reported Sunday that Cutler realizes he might not be back in Chicago next season.
  1. Now that Brandon Marshall is out for the season, the Bears have a chance to see what new starter Marquess Wilson can do opposite Alshon Jeffery. An intriguing blend of size and speed, Wilson slipped to the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft after alleging abuse by Washington State coach Mike Leach -- and ultimately quitting the team.
  1. Playing through a painful shoulder injury on top of last year's torn plantar fascia, Jimmy Graham has managed just one 100-yard performance in his last 18 games after going over the century in four of five games to begin the 2013 season. If Graham is going to get back on track, the matchup couldn't be better. The Bears allow opponents to score on 46.5 percent of drives, the highest figure in the NFL since at least 1991. Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 103.4 on Mel Tucker's defense.
  1. Chicago's defense isn't alone as an embarrassment. It's fair to wonder if Saints defensive boss Rob Ryan is on the hot seat with a unit that ranks in the bottom five in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and pass defense. The Saints are also forcing the lowest percentage of three-and-outs (12.3) of any team in the league. It has been a precipitous fall from last year's surprising fourth-ranked defense.
  1. What that means is Matt Forte will have a chance to get off the schneid this week. The Bears' 48 rushing yards over the last two weeks are the franchise's second fewest over a two-game span since at least 1950. Forte ranks second only to DeMarco Murray with 48.0 percent of his team's offensive touches. He's going to be force-fed the ball, which bodes well for his chances of breaking Larry Centers' single-season receptions record (106) for a running back.
  1. Meanwhile, Mark Ingram is on pace to become the franchise's first 1,000-yard rusher since Deuce McAllister in 2006. The Saints are 0-5 when an active Ingram has fewer than 15 carries this season. The impending free agent entered the week second only to Murray in rushing yards (651) since Week 8.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Sunday game from Week 15 and discusses all the playoff implications. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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