Monday night, November 7, 2011, the Chicago Bears will be playing the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. This will be a battle between two teams that are trying to get back into the playoff hunt. The Bears are 4-3 and are 3rd in the NFC North division behind the perfect 7-0 Green Bay Packers and the 5-2 Detroit Lions. Having lost games to the division leaders, the Bears have their work cut out for them as they need to win every game just to keep pace with the two division leaders. The Eagles are 3-4 and have won two in a row after going 1-4 to start the season. They are currently 2nd in the NFC East behind the 5-2 New York Giants, but they are currently behind the Bears, the Buccaneers and the Falcons in the NFC playoff picture. A head-to-head win puts them right back in the thick of things and gives them the tie breaker against the Bears.
A couple of weeks ago, I would have thought this would be a solid win for the Bears, but after seeing the Eagles dismantle the Cowboys last week, it may not be as solid as I once thought. It’s still a winnable game, but the Bears have to be at the top of their game to beat Michael Vick and the Eagles on their home turf. The Bears are coming off their bye week and they are 4-1 since 2006 under Lovie Smith after the bye week, so let’s hope the coaching staff did its homework on the Eagles.
Last year these two teams met and the Bears came out on the winning side of that contest 31-26. The score was much closer than the result as the Bears had a commanding 31-13 lead until Philly scored two FG’s and a late TD in the 4th quarter as the Bears were playing in their prevent defense. Bears’ QB Jay Cutler tossed 4 TD’s in that game to lead the Bears to victory. The Bears won by containing superstar Vick and LaSean McCoy for most of the night.
Bears Offense vs. Eagles Defense: The Bears have the 15th ranked rushing attack (114.7 YPG) and the 17th ranked passing attack (222.7 YPG), and they’re going up against the Eagles 19th ranked rushing defense (118.3 YPG) and 10th ranked passing defense (212.3 YPG). The Eagles are 6th in the league rushing the passer with 22 sacks and the Bears are 23rd in protecting the passer (21 sacks allowed). This would suggest to me that the Bears can move the ball against the Eagles enough to score. I think the Bears need to continue their recent success at max protect and emphasize the running game. This will keep the Eagles defense honest and give Cutler some opportunities on play action passing. It will also make for shorter 2nd and 3rd down situations, which always favor the offense. However, if the Eagles open up a quick lead and extend it, Bears’ OC Mike Martz has proven in the past that he will abandon the run. If that happens, watch out! The Eagle pass rushers will pin their ears back and put pressure on Cutler.
Bears Defense vs. Eagles Offense: The Bears have the 12th ranked rushing defense (108.7 YPG) and the 28th ranked pass defense (271.9 YPG). They are also 22nd in rushing the passer with 15 sacks. The Eagles boast the NFL’s best rushing attack (179.9 YPG) and the 9th best passing attack (269.4 YPG). They are 6th in protecting the passer (13 sacks allowed). This does not bode well for the Bears. Granted that much of the Eagles rushing attack comes in the form of Michael Vick scrambles (he has 422 rushing yards), but LeSean McCoy is no slouch. He has rushed for 754 yards (5.6 YPC) and 8 TD’s; that ranks him 2nd in the NFL behind the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson. This is not the same Eagles’ offense the Bears faced last year. Vick is further along in his development in Andy Reid’s offense and McCoy is a more experienced RB. The Bears absolutely have to bring their “A” game Monday night, especially in the run game. If the Eagles ground game gets rolling, it will be a long night for the Bears.
My Prediction: I still remain optimistic, though not confidently so, that the Bears can pull this game out. There is no margin for error on the defensive side of the ball for the Bears, and their offense needs to be very productive if it turns into a shootout. The “X” factor is the Bears’ special teams play. They still sport the most explosive return man in the history of the game and one of the most accurate FG kickers in the history of the game. If it came down to a clutch FG or a timely return, I like the Bears’ chances in this category. Bears 34, Eagles 31.