Here is a look at hypothetical propositional wagers between the Bears and Eagles.
First team to score
Eagles. The Eagles have a potent offense — ranked No. 1 in the league — and have finally started to come together after a 1-4 start to their season. In a prime time game with possible playoff implications on the line, I think they jump out to an early lead at home.
First Bears player to score
Robbie Gould. The Bears have no choice but to match fire with fire on the offensive side of the football because I’m not sure defense will prevail in this one. However, I don’t expect a strong offensive start and I think they’ll have to settle for three for their first points of the game.
First Bears player to catch a pass
Matt Forte. On the road in prime time, the Bears will probably want to resort to short, checkdown passes until the offense can get into a rhythm. This game has the feeling of one of those in which the first couple possessions look sloppy and the defense comes after Cutler with heavy pressure. Forte may be the only option early.
Bears player to catch most passes
Matt Forte. The Eagles not only have one of the top pass rushes in the league, but have a strong secondary loaded with talent. I think you’re going to see a heavy dose of Forte in the passing game to try to neutralize the pressure on Cutler.
More passing yards – Jay Cutler or Michael Vick
Michael Vick. Vick isn’t much of a quarterback but he has a lot of weapons around him and he’s staring down a young secondary across the line. Add to the fact that the Bears defense naturally yields a lot of passing yards (fifth-most yards per game through the air) and Vick should top Cutler in this category.
More touchdown passes or interceptions by Jay Cutler
Interceptions. I don’t have a good feeling about Cutler’s performance in this one. The Eagles have a great secondary full of playmakers and Cutler has had a history of forcing the ball and struggling in prime time appearances. Yes, he played well in back-to-back evening games against the Lions and Vikings, but he struggled in a night game in London against the Buccaneers’ 29th-ranked pass defense. Given that the Bears will be playing in their fourth-straight night game on Monday, Cutler may be getting used to playing in them.
Jay Cutler sacks
4. The Eagles are ranked sixth in the NFL with 22 sacks and have always brought heavy pressure for years. Even though the offensive line has protected Cutler better in the past few games, he could be in for a beating in this one.
More rushing yards – Bears or Eagles
Eagles. Short explanation, the Eagles have the top-ranked rushing offense in the league. Longer answer, the Bears are likely to be playing from behind and could abandon the run at some point earlier in the game than they would like to. Plus, it doesn’t hurt the Eagles to have virtually two running backs in the backfield, one of whom plays quarterback and presents a threat to throw on every snap.
Total combined rushing and receiving yards by Matt Forte
140. The bulk of Forte’s yards in this one will be through the air. In order to compete in this game, unless the offensive line completely surprises us with its pass protection, the Bears will have to use Forte out of the backfield.
Team to win the turnover battle
Eagles. There’s no wonder the Eagles are only 3-4; they’re ranked 29th in the league with a minus-seven turnover ratio. One would think that the Bears’ defense, which thrives on turnovers, would take advantage of this. Sometimes stats lie, though, and I think a couple Cutler interceptions will lead to the Eagles coming up on the positive side of the turnover ratio in this one.
Total points scored
43. My gut feeling is that this one could get ugly early for the Bears unless they can buck the trend of poor road performances from earlier in the season and come out and control the tempo of the game, rather than have it dictated to them from a raucous crowd and a surging team. Either way, the scoring figures to be in, or near the 20s for each team.