Pro Bowl RB Alvin Kamara, who leads the league in broken tackles and ranks sixth overall in yards from scrimmage, will join NFL passing champion Drew Brees on the sideline Sunday at Soldier Field when the 5-1 New Orleans Saints battle the 3-2 Bears.
Kamara was ruled out after missing all three practices in Week 7 with an ankle injury — reportedly a high ankle sprain — that was first listed by the Saints last Thursday, when he was a limited participant before missing Friday’s practice but still playing in New Orleans’ 13-7 win in Jacksonville. However, Kamara played only 59 percent of the snaps on offense, tallying 66 yards from scrimmage on 18 score-less touches compared to 79 and 11, respectively, by RB2 Latavius Murray.
It’s worth noting that Murray, a big back with speed but nowhere near the dynamism of Kamara, is one of only four backs to eclipse 100 rushing yards against the Bears ‘D’ over the past three seasons, going for 111 on 20 carries in the 2017 regular-season finale as a member of the Vikings. Also notable: the fourth back in that span, Raiders rookie Josh Jacobs, pulled off the feat the last time the Bears ‘D’ was in action, in the Week 5 loss in London, where D-line lynchpin Akiem Hicks suffered the elbow injury that sent him to IR this week on only the eighth snap.
In addition to Kamara, who has yet to miss a game with injury in his first two-plus seasons and meteoric rise to one of the game’s most feared playmakers, remains up in the air, Brees will miss his fifth consecutive game with a broken right thumb.
The Saints, though, have been led efficiently in Brees’ absence by former Vikings first-rounder Teddy Bridgewater during their four-game winning streak, when the defense has reasserted itself as one of the NFL’s very best.
And it might need to be again Sunday considering the Bears ‘D’ is obviously also in that conversation and New Orleans will also be without veteran starting TE Jared Cook, who missed the week of practice with an ankle injury after coming on strong with his first two touchdowns over the past two weeks.
So the Bears, who should welcome back QB Mitch Trubisky Sunday for the first time since he injured his left shoulder on the sixth snap of the win vs. the Vikings on Sept. 29, appear poised to potentially catch a couple massive breaks coming out of the bye after placing two of their own key players — Hicks and former Pro Bowl RG Kyle Long — on I.R.
Not that they’ll apologize.
If Kamara isn’t the game’s most exciting young playmaker on offense, it’s probably reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes, who dislocated his right kneecap in Denver on Thursday night and will miss at least the next few weeks — when his Chiefs welcome the the 5-1 Green Bay Packers and 4-2 Minnesota Vikings, whom the Bears are chasing in the division.
Indeed, NFL teams might not control injuries but they certainly dictate how they respond to them — and Sunday is increasingly looking like a fortuitous opportunity for the Bears to get back on track and notch a key conference victory likely to have major playoff ramifications down the road.