Game Preview: Chicago Bears (8-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (8-6)

December 21st, 2013 - 11:14 am

There’s been a lot of talk about the “what ifs” surrounding divisional races and playoff positioning when the Bears take the field Sunday night against the Eagles. But the Bears can’t worry about scenarios and instead have to focus on the task at hand: stopping a red hot Eagles offense and being able to score enough points on the road against a quality opponent.

This Eagles team is not indestructible. They’re only 8-6 and lost to a lowly Vikings team on the road. Then again, so did the Bears. But it’s the Eagles’ first-ranked rushing offense against the Bears’ last-ranked run defense that has me worried in this one. The Eagles are averaging an eye-popping 152.9 rushing yards per game while the Bears are allowing a staggering 152.4 on the ground.

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy leads the NFL with 1,343 rushing yards. How the Bears slow him down remains a mystery. The Bears might be getting Lance Briggs, the quarterback of their defense, back this week. He practiced and has been medically cleared to play, but he is listed as questionable with that shoulder. Even if Briggs does return, he’s only one man and it’d be silly to think he can cure all ills in a defense that requires all 11 players do their jobs on any given play. But he would move rookie Khaseem Greene to the sideline and he would take over the play calling and allow James Anderson to concentrate more on playing than leading. The bigger question is how would Briggs’ endurance hold up against an Eagles offense that operates awfully quick.

The Eagles are no one-trick pony, either. They can pass the ball as well as run it. Quarterback Nick Foles has been a pleasant surprise for them, throwing 23 touchdowns and just two interceptions in only 11 games played this year. His 117.0 passer rating leads the NFL. Basically, he’s been the younger version of Josh McCown this year. A backup quarterback who stepped into the limelight and has played within the framework of the offense, taking care of the ball and not making many mistakes.

The Bears can’t sleep on Foles while attempting to slow down McCoy. Foles’ go-to guys are a pair of ‘Seans — speedy wide receiver DeSean Jackson, and, of course, running back LeSean McCoy. McCoy is a lot like the Bears’ Matt Forte, in that he’s so versatile as a running back and a receiver out of the backfield. If I had to guess, I’d say we’re going to see something special out of these two, top-level NFL backs.

Jackson worries me because I still have fears and concerns about the Bears’ secondary. We know about their coverage issues, and when they’re facing a receiver with Jackson’s speed, one false step will prevent them from recovering in time and will lead to six points. Jackson has nine scores this year and is 7th in the NFL with 91.1 receiving yards per game.

Surrounding Jackson and causing additional problems for the Bears defense will be wide receiver Riley Cooper, who has 41 receptions for 743 yards and 7 touchdowns, and tight end Zach Ertz, who has caught 32 passes for 399 yards and 4 scores. Wide receiver Jason Avant and tight end Brent Celek have also given defenses fits this year. Philly’s offense has a plethora of weapons.

The Eagles have the No. 2 offense according to total yards and are ranked No. 7 according to points scored. To win this game, the Bears will have to fall back upon their own explosive offense to keep up. The Bears are ranked second in points scored and have the No. 7 offense according to total yards.

Whereas the Bears’ defense is ranked last against the run and could struggle against the Eagles’ offense, the Eagles’ defense is ranked second-to-last against the pass and that could mean good things for Jay Cutler and crew. The Eagles secondary will have difficulties matching up against the duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, just as so many other defenses have this year. Throw in a pair of Bennetts — tight end Martellus and wide receiver Earl, who has come on strong as of late — and the Eagles will have matchup nightmares. Their best chance at slowing down the Bears’ offense is by applying pressure on Cutler, something which the Bears’ offensive line does not allow. Really, the only way I see the Eagles slowing them down is if Cutler self destructs again like he did last week against the Browns. But given how rusty Cutler was in his first game back from injury, I don’t expect to see that kind of performance from him again. I think we’ll see more of what he did in the second half against Cleveland.

This is a rough game to predict because there indeed is the possibility that either the Eagles or Bears see this as a meaningless game depending on what happens earlier in the day with the Cowboys, Lions, and Packers. Still, I have my concerns with how the Bears defend this Eagles offense and this game could come down to whichever team protects the football more and has the ball with the chance to produce a game-winning drive. Sadly, I’m leaning toward the home team in this one.

Prediction: Philadelphia 34, Chicago 27

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