For all of the criticism John Fox gets for being a conservative coach -- by the NFL's already conservative standards -- who insists on trying to win football games without throwing the ball, and for all of the criticism Sean Payton gets for failing to make the playoffs with Hall of Famer Drew Brees as his quarterback, both coaches deserve a ton of credit this season.

The Bears have ripped off two straight wins after starting the year 1-4. OK, so "ripped off" is probably poor word choice considering the Bears have scored two offensive touchdowns during their winning spurt. The Bears have won in typical Fox fashion: running the ball, playing insane defense, not throwing the ball, and playing more insane defense. The Bears defense has scored three touchdowns and allowed zero in the past two games. That's right -- the Bears' defense is outscoring opposing offenses 21-0 (not counting field goals and special teams scores) in its past two games. Suddenly, the defense has the Bears in the playoff hunt for the first time in what probably feels like forever for Chicago. And Fox's job, which looked shaky at best entering the season, might be in the process of being saved.

The Saints, on the other hand, are very much contenders in the NFC. They lead the NFC South by half a game. They've won four straight games after an 0-2 start, outscoring their foes by 64 points during their winning streak. They've gotten there with Brees being Brees of course, but also by leaning on a suddenly dominant ground game that's averaging 147.3 yards per game during their winning streak.

The Monsters of the Midway are back. And so are the New Orleans Saints. And on Sunday, the two resurgent teams will meet in New Orleans. Entering the year, a game between the Bears and Saints looked like an unwatchable contest on the schedule. Now, the matchup will feature Brees and the Saints' dynamic rushing attack against one of the league's hottest defenses.

The Saints should be considered the clear favorites because the Bears' passing game is as ineffective as a Stormtrooper shooting at a moving target, but their offense is going to be tested against a staunch defense. Don't be surprised if the Saints' offense struggles on Sunday.

Trench warfare

The Bears' front seven is missing arguably its best player, inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, and productive pass rusher Willie Young, but it's still among the league's best. Meanwhile, the Saints' pass protection has arguably been the best in football.

So far this season, the Bears have notched 21 sacks -- the sixth-most in football -- and generated pressure 32.7 percent of the time, according to Pro Football Focus. But the Saints have surrendered the fewest sacks (5) and allowed pressure on 22.2 percent of dropbacks -- the second-lowest pressure rate in football -- according to PFF. PFF also ranks the Saints' offensive line fourth in pass-blocking efficiency.

So what gives?

It's worth noting that the Saints offensive line is banged up. Starting guard Larry Warford is out several weeks with an abdominal injury, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Warford has allowed zero sacks and nine total pressures on 215 pass-blocking snaps, per PFF. Starting right tackle Zach Strief is already on injured reserve with a knee injury. So, the Bears will have chances to get after Brees.

The Saints need to contain Akiem Hicks, who leads the Bears in sacks with six. He's also racked up 17 hurries and three hits, making him the fifth-most productive pass rusher among 3-4 defensive ends, according to PFF. Behind him is outside pass-rushing linebacker Leonard Floyd, who has four sacks. According to PFF, Floyd has been a more productive pass rusher than Texans' star Jadeveon Clowney. Don't sleep on outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and his four sacks. The Bears miss Young, but they have enough pass rushers to overcome his injury. In their past two games, they've brought down Joe Flacco and Cam Newton eight times.

Hicks has been terrorizing opposing QBs all season.  USATSI

So far this season, Brees has the third-worst passer rating under pressure (36.8), according to PFF. Two of his four picks have occurred when he's been pressured. So, while he hasn't been pressured much, when he has been under duress, he's struggled mightily. To have a shot in this game, the Bears need to manufacture a pass rush.

The turnover battle

Last year, the Bears came away with an NFL-low 11 takeaways. This year, through seven games, they've already racked up nine takeaways. Six of those takeaways have occurred in the past two weeks. Three of those six takeaways have been returned for touchdowns.

The Saints, though, know how to take care of the football. They've totaled just five giveaways this season. Only two teams have turned the ball over fewer times. However, it's worth noting that the Saints, unlike the Bears' defense, is trending in the wrong direction. All five of those turnovers have occurred in the past two weeks. 

With the Bears defense suddenly looking like the units coached by turnover maestro Lovie Smith, the Saints need be cautious with the football. The Bears aren't good enough offensively to win on their own, but they can win this game by taking the ball away from the Saints and doing stuff like this:

And this:

And this:

The Saints' ball protection has to improve this week.

A transformed secondary

One reason why the Bears are winning the turnover battle? Their secondary transformed from a weakness to a unit that can hold its own. Former first-round pick Kyle Fuller, who appeared to be on his way out of Chicago after a disappointing start to his career, is playing stellar football at cornerback. According to PFF, he's allowed a 74.7 passer rating in coverage. Free-agent signing Prince Amukamara has given up seven receptions. And Bryce Callahan has generated a 79.2 passer rating in coverage.

Don't forget about those safeties. Usually a weakness of the Bears -- remember Chris Conte and Major Wright? -- their safeties this season have been a net positive. Those three defensive touchdowns above came courtesy starting safeties Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson.

In all, the Bears boast the ninth-ranked passing defense (by yards allowed). The Saints, meanwhile, are ranked third in passing yards per game, as Brees is off to another blistering start. He has completed a nice 69.1 percent of his passes, thrown 11 touchdowns and four picks, and posted a 100.0 passer rating. The Bears can't shut down Brees. They can only hope to contain him by limiting big plays and then coming away with an interception or two. To do that, the Bears need to prevent receivers Michael Thomas (team-high 403 yards) and Ted Ginn Jr. (353 yards), and running back Alvin Kamara (209 yards) from creating big plays.

Of note: Thomas missed practice on Wednesday with a knee injury.

The ground game

The Saints are ranked 10th in rushing yards per game with 121.7 and seventh in yards per carry with 4.4. And they didn't even need Adrian Peterson to achieve rushing success.

Mark Ingram has rushed for 389 yards and three touchdowns, and has averaged 4.4 yards per carry. And then there's the rookie, Alvin Kamara, who's exceeded all expectations to this point. He's rushed for 215 yards and a touchdown, and has averaged 6.3 yards per carry. He's also third on the team in receiving yards with 209.

NFL: International Series-New Orleans Saints at Miami Dolphins
Ingram is averaging 4.4 yards a crack for a potent Saints rushing attack.  USATSI

It's worth noting that Ingram has been the least elusive running back among qualified players at his position, according to PFF. He's registered only six missed tackles this season. So, his success is due to the offensive line's dominance. They're ranked second in run blocking, according to Football Outsiders' advanced metrics.

The running game's success -- regardless of how they've achieved that success -- is what makes the Saints so dangerous and tough to defend. The Bears just can't zero in on Brees. They need to account for the Saints' dangerous running back duo. Brees also has a 106.0 passer rating off play-action, according to PFF. So, he's been taking advantage of his running game.

The Bears own the 11th-best run defense in terms of yards allowed per game (104.9) and Hicks has the second-best stop percentage among all 3-4 defensive ends (per PFF), so they're capable. But they'll be tested by the Saints' ground assault.

So, who wins?

The Saints are probably going to beat the Bears, because the Bears' offense doesn't feature a capable passing game. Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has gone 12 of 23 in the past two games. Don't blame him -- blame the Bears' play-calling, which is likely due to their lack of a WR1 or WR2, though they did trade for Dontrelle Inman on Wednesday. To win, the Bears will need Trubisky and the passing game to finally break out (unlikely) or their defense to pitch another flawless game (unlikely because the Saints' offense is averaging the fourth-most points per game with 28.5) or the turnovers to bounce their way (it's possible).

In the process, the Saints' offense will face a tough test. Their banged-up offensive line could be in for a long day. Brees could be under more pressure than he's grown accustomed to. The Bears can't score much unless their defense sets them up with short fields, so the Saints would be wise to lean on their ground game and play patient and safe football against a tough and competitive, but deeply flawed Bears team. Patience they must have.