Bears offense vs. Eagles defense
The Bears are tenth in the league in passing offense, but the Eagles are tenth in the league at stopping it. Philadelphia’s secondary is banged up and if given time, Jay Cutler could pick it apart. But that’s been the problem all season. Cutler has not received good protection from his offensive line, or his backs and tight ends, for that matter. And with an offense that has pass protection issues, that’s like a death sentence for Cutler against a team that shows a variety of blitzes and constantly brings pressure. The Bears’ best chance at neutralizing these attacks is to spread the field and utilize short, quick passes to methodically move down the field. I don’t recall seeing many, if any, four receiver sets, but I’d like to see the Bears run that soon, if only for a series to give the defense a different look. Using a four-receiver set in conjunction with a no huddle attack would surely surprise the Eagles and could lead to points. Devin Aromashodu, Cutler’s favorite wide receiver in training camp and the preseason, caught his first pass of the season last week against San Francisco after being inactive for most of the season. Cutler said this week that he’d like to see more of “D.A.”, so hopefully he’s active against the Eagles and we see more of him on the field to see what he can do. I haven’t mentioned the Bears’ run game yet and for good reason. They’re ranked No. 30 on the ground and Philadelphia is No. 8 at defending it. It’s just not going to happen.
Bears defense vs. Eagles offense
Don’t let statistics deceive you. The Bears may be ranked eighth against the pass — shocking, considering they were ranked 30th last year — but that’s only because teams are having much greater success running the ball against the Bears and don’t need to pass as much. Eagles running back Brian Westbrook is out this week — just as he was last year against the Bears — so Philadelphia will turn to rookie LeSean McCoy to handle the bulk of the carries. McCoy is a tough runner who has a burst to break off a big run. He averages 4.1 yards per carry with a season-long 66-yard run. The Eagles are not one of the better running teams in the league as they prefer to move the ball through the air. With a quarterback like Donovan McNabb, why wouldn’t they? But blitz pick-up is one area where McCoy struggles — as most rookies generally do — so, if the Bears want to get to McNabb, sending a few confusing blitzes could get the job done. They’ve blitzed a lot this season, but the Bears haven’t had much success getting to the quarterback while doing so. The problem with blitzing against a quarterback of McNabb’s ilk, is that if they don’t get to him and the Eagles do pick up the blitz, McNabb will shred the Bears’ secondary. The other thing that McNabb does as well as any quarterback in the league is throw well while on the move. He’s got the mobility to evade a pass rush, escape the pocket, and throw accurate passes on the run. Much like Cutler, the key is to keep him inside the pocket.
Robbie Gould has been money all season long. His only two misses were a 53-yard field goal on the first drive against the Seahawks, and a blocked field goal at the end of the first half against the Cardinals — after which, on a side note, he made one heck of a tackle. The problem is, he’s facing one of the league’s best kickers, David Akers, who currently leads the leagues with 19 converted field goals. Akers has been good for a long time. Eagles punter Sav Rocca and the Bears’ Brad Maynard are only one yard apart in net average, and Maynard has one more punt downed inside the 20 than Rocca. The Eagles’ DeSean Jackson and the Bears’ Devin Hester are two of the best punt returners in the business. The one area on special teams where the Bears get the slight edge is at kick returns with the combination of Danieal Manning and Johnny Knox. The Eagles had a good kick returner in Ellis Hobbs, who was placed on IR. This is a good special teams matchup with no discernible edge.
The Eagles come into this game banged up and licking their wounds. They have fourteen players listed on the injury report, some of whom are key contributors. They also haven’t had any success on Sunday nights — they’re 0-7 in NBC’s Sunday night contests — but neither has Cutler. In fact, Cutler has struggled in all night games this year. Is it a coincidence or a scary trend? We’ll find that out against the Eagles. Cutler has also played much better at home than on the road, and all three of the Bears’ prime time games up to this point have been away games. One of those two trends — Cutler’s poor performances at night or his good performances at home — will come to an end. The fact that the Bears can’t get to the quarterback with consistency nor can they protect Cutler against constant pressure are two of the most concerning problems the Bears have. I’ve heard both fans and analysts talking all week about how this is the type of game the Bears can and do win — a game they really shouldn’t win but do because they find a way to pull it off. While I’d like to believe that, I’ll say the same thing I did last week. Until the Bears prove me wrong, I have to pick against them.
Final Score: Philadelphia 24, Chicago 20