It’s brutally cold in Chicago at this time of the year. But even the Bears have to be feeling particularly chilly based on the three-word warning Alvin Kamara sent Thursday night.
But even if the New Orleans Saints have their Pro Bowl running back available on Sunday, that doesn’t guarantee they’ll advance to the next round of the playoffs.
While their biggest offensive star should be on the field for the biggest game of the season, the NFL’s second-leading sack artist won’t be. And that could be the competitive edge Mitch Trubisky and a much-improved Bears offense needs to score an upset at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
COVID-19 sidelined Alvin Kamara for the final game of his magical season
The Saints signed Alvin Kamara to a $75 million contract extension the day before their season opener. He rewarded them with the most productive year of his career.
Even with Drew Brees missing four games, Kamara led the NFL with 21 total touchdowns. He racked up a career-high 16 rushing TD on only 187 carries. He continued to play an integral role in the passing game, too.
In his age-25 campaign, Kamara caught a career-high 83 passes. He averaged 9.1 yards per reception and found the end zone five times as a receiver.
However, the four-time Pro Bowler suffered a setback late in the season.
In the days leading up to the Saints’ Week 17 matchup against the Carolina Panthers, Kamara tested positive for COVID-19.
Despite not having their most important offensive weapon available, the Saints easily took care of business against Teddy Bridgewater and Co. Their defense recorded five interceptions and three sacks in a lopsided 33-7 victory.
That win cemented New Orleans as the No. 2 seed in the NFC and set up a wild-card showdown against a Chicago team that put up a tough fight against Sean Payton’s squad back in Week 8.
The Pro Bowl running back sends a scary warning to the Bears
Although Alvin Kamara has remained away from the team, that hasn’t stopped the Saints from doing everything possible to prepare him to play against the Bears. Thanks to the power of technology, the star running back has taken part in live practices remotely. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Saints even put a microphone on Sean Payton during practice to help guide Kamara through plays.
Although the team hasn’t made an official determination on his status, the dynamic back took to Twitter on Thursday night to issue a chilly three-word warning to the Bears. And in doing so, he seemed to answer the biggest question on the minds of Saints fans.
“See y’all Sunday,” Kamara tweeted, with a heart emjoi at the end.
Reading between the obvious lines, it sure sounds like he plans on playing on Sunday. And while some will view his message as nothing but a pick-me-up for Saints fans, that’s definitely not how the Bears should interpret it.
Rather, Kamara issued a warning that should terrify anyone who roots for the Chicago NFL franchise. After all, Kamara averaged 5.6 yards per carry and caught nine passes for 96 yards against the Bears back in Week 8. His athleticism and versatility make him a threat to score every time he touches the ball, as evidenced by his ridiculous touchdown total. Plus, his presence opens up opportunities for other Saints pass-catchers to make plays.
Ultimately, even if the Saints haven’t made it official yet, the Bears better prepare for a heavy dose of No. 41 on Sunday.
Unfortunately for New Orleans, the likely return of one star may not be enough to overcome the recent loss of another one.
Can Kamara help the Saints overcome the loss of Trey Hendrickson?
On Friday, the Saints officially ruled out Trey Hendrickson for the Bears game—a brutal blow for the league’s fifth-ranked scoring defense.
Like Alvin Kamara, Hendrickson arrived as a third-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft. In his fourth season in New Orleans, the 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive end racked up a team-high 13.5 sacks. He also led the Saints with 25 quarterback hits.
But because of a lingering neck issue, the game-wrecking pass rusher won’t have a chance to chase after Mitch Trubisky on Sunday.
His absence could lead to problems for a Saints defense that showed some holes in December. New Orleans surrendered about 26 points per game last month before finishing the season on a strong note against Carolina.
Kamara’s return certainly gives the Saints a chance to put up more points on offense. But will Hendrickson’s absence result in more time for Trubisky and more points for the Bears?
If so, that will spell trouble for a team led by a quarterback whose next game could very well be his last.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.