Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 10/7/13

Although school and work are out on Sundays, football fans still have a lot of learning to do. The lessons for the day include: learning which teams are contenders, which teams are pretenders, and which players will step up to bring their squad over the top. On Sunday in Chicago, however, we learned nothing about the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears as far as where the two teams stand in the NFL food chain. If you didn't believe the Saints are for real after the first four weeks, that lesson they taught in Chicago should be more than enough material to sway your opinion. And, if you mistakenly thought that the Bears were a legitimate NFC contender after their 3-0 start, this loss should more than prove to you that Chicago is nothing more and nothing less than mediocre. After their loss to New Orleans, they stand at 3-2 with the New York Giants coming to town Thursday and then they travel to Washington D.C. to play the Redskins the following week. These two games are must-wins for the Bears because, after that, their schedule is rough, including two matchups with the Green Bay Packers and one more with the Detroit Lions. This Bears team is not awful, but at the same time, they still are not ready to be even close to the same class as the Saints and that is ultimately what we learned on Sunday. There may come a point when he is not just the best pass-catching tight end in the league, but simply the best overall receiver in the game. The Saints are a special team. Why, you ask? They have an asset that nobody else in the league has: a basketball player who can line up as a tight end, but who is really a wide receiver with blocking skills. The thing about Jimmy Graham that people don't understand is that he has shown that he can run just about all the necessary routes and there may come a point in his career when he is not just the best pass-catching tight end in the league, but simply the best overall receiver in the game. His ability to run deep, intermediate, and short routes, along with the fact that linebackers are usually covering him, makes him an almost unstoppable force. And Drew Brees knows it. The 135 yards Graham racked up on Sunday add to his league-leading 593 yards and, although he did not score a touchdown in his matchup with Chicago, he is still tied for the league lead with six. The secret sauce to Graham's success is summed up in one word: mismatch. Not only is he a monster (6'5", 265 pounds), but he also can run the 40-yard dash in mid-4.5 seconds. This means even the quickest cornerbacks will have trouble because they are too small to run Graham off his routes and linebackers, no matter who they are, are far too slow to cover him. Playing for Sean Payton and with Drew Brees doesn't hurt, either. Brees and Graham evidently have fantastic chemistry and it shows on every connection between the two. To sum it up, Graham is the type of player you give an arm and a leg to lock up, and the Saints might just have to do that soon. Graham is currently in the last season of his rookie contract. New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, to whom Graham is repeatedly compared to, was in a similar situation in 2012 and the Patriots signed him to a six-year, $53 million extension. Now, not only is Graham a much more versatile receiver than Gronkowski, but unlike the bruiser in New England, Graham has not had a problem staying on the field (New Orleans fans everywhere, knock on wood). I would argue that Graham is worth more than Gronkowski and I'm sure his agent will as well. There really isn't much here for the Saints to do. As I said earlier, Graham is a must-lock up player. New Orleans, you have to pay the man. If you have not learned anything this Sunday, or from any other New Orleans game, just know this: Jimmy Graham is the receiver of the future and letting him go could be the biggest mistake in the franchise's history.   This FOX Sports NFL Game of the Week preview was sponsored by State Farm

This article first appeared on The Sports Post and was syndicated with permission.

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