Bears offense vs. Eagles defense
Scoring points has not been the problem for the Bears this year. In fact, they’re 15th in the league. However, this week, it might be a little bit more difficult for the Bears to reach the end zone. Matt Forte is currently fourth in the league in rushing with 304 yards on 73 carries, a 4.2 average. He averages 101 yards per game. The Eagles, meanwhile, are the league’s top run defense. They’re permitting just 45.7 rushing yards per game and are only giving up a shockingly low 2.4 yards per carry. If the Bears want to have any chance at winning this game, Kyle Orton is going to have to make plays in the passing game, because I just don’t see them breaking through in the run game. However, it’s not as if passing will be any easier. The Eagles rank 15th in the league defending that. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is well known for his complicated blitzing schemes. I will say that this is one of those games that I feel more comfortable having Kyle Orton engineering the offense than Rex Grossman because I feel Orton is more comfortable reading blitzes and getting rid of the ball safely. Yet, the three quarterbacks to play against the Eagles before this week were Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, and Marc Bulger, all of whom have had a little more success in this league than anyone the Bears can trot out there.
Bears defense vs. Eagles offense
The Eagles’ offense is just as high powered as it’s defense is stout. They rank fourth in the league in total points, averaging 30 points per game. They’re also sixth in the league in average yards per game with 373, and they’re seventh in the league in time of possession. This is an offense that knows what to do with the ball and how to protect it, as they’re +1 in the turnover ratio. The Bears defense is giving up 23.3 points and 321 yards per game. Despite being healthy — with the exception of Tommie Harris — the defense is having trouble getting off the field. They’re allowing teams to sustain long, time-consuming drives that wear them out and, as a result, they’re breaking down in the fourth quarter and giving up leads. Last week, it was appalling that Brian Griese threw the ball 67 times and wasn’t sacked once. Give him credit for getting rid of the ball quickly, but the front four was hardly getting pressure on him. This defensive line is one that likes to call itself the best in the league. It’s high time they start acting like it. If they don’t get pressure on Donovan McNabb, he will pick apart the Bears’ secondary. And if they overpursue, he’s still got mobility at his age to pick up yards with his legs. What I want to see out of Bob Babich’s unit is a lot of what they showed in Week 1 against the Colts. Bring the linebackers up to the line of scrimmage and try to confuse the Eagles’ offensive line. Learn from the defensive genius across the field and send a variety of blitz packages at the Eagles. Be the aggressor and don’t wait for the Eagles to beat you first.
Devin Hester is questionable for this game, but I don’t think it’d matter much anyway. The Eagles were one of the best teams in the league last year at keeping the ball away from Hester. With Nathan Vasher sore and listed as probable on the injury report, I wonder if the Bears will finally consider activating Earl Bennett for this game or if they’ll continue to trot out Vasher to return punts. The Eagles have a very solid special teams unit. David Akers is a perennial Pro Bowler who is currently tied with Robbie Gould with 6 field goals made. As I mentioned, Sav Rocca did a good job of keeping the ball away from Hester last year and he currently ranks first in the league in net punt average with 44.1 yards. This is a very competitive category and field position will play a significant role as it almost always does. I’ve got to give the slight advantage to the Bears, though.
This is the type of game that has upset written all over it. An underrated Bears team that has lost two straight games after leading in the fourth quarter going up against a heavily-favored Eagles team whose only bump in the road was a dominant Dallas team that they almost beat in Week 2. We’ve seen the Bears rise to the occasion before when they’ve been counted out. Why they seem to play worse against average teams and excellent against better teams is hard to figure out. But we do know that there is something special about Lovie Smith’s teams in prime time while playing the underdog role. So, what this game will come down to is personnel, execution, ball protection, and four complete quarters. Let me lay out the blueprint for success. Whether or not Brian Westbrook plays, the Eagles won’t be as explosive as they have been the first three weeks. And if Devin Hester gets on the field, his mere presence alters the field position greatly. The Bears must execute and look crisp while making few to none mistakes. They have to protect the football and not turn it over. The turnover battle is just as important as field position, and they often go hand-in-hand. And, finally, the Bears have to “finish”. It’s a word Lovie has preached since he got here. If they were able to finish what they started in their two previous games, they’d be 3-0 right now. If they can execute, win the turnover battle, take care of field position, and finish, they have a shot at shaking up the NFC foundation. Something tells me they won’t be able to take care of all those items.
Final Score: Philadelphia 27, Chicago 23