Buckle up Chicago fans, the Bears are back in the postseason for the first time since 2010. By virtue of winning the NFC North, Chicago is set to face the second wild card winner: the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. Luckily, the game is in Soldier Field, and it’s going to be a big first test for the Bears. I’m going to take a look at both the Eagles and the Bears offensive prowess, their defense and special teams. Let’s get started:
Starting with the Eagles, they are bringing back the quarterback that led them throughout the playoffs last year and beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl, Nick Foles. Playoff magic might be something that is overrated and overused, but it seems to exist with Foles. Last year’s playoff run saw the quarterback beat Atlanta, Minnesota and then New England.
He completed 77 of 106 passes for 971 yards and six touchdowns against one interception. His average quarterback rating was 115.9. He also CAUGHT one touchdown in the Super Bowl that has forever been branded the “Philly Special.” This man won the Super Bowl MVP, and it’s guaranteed he’s looking to do it again.
Foles saved the regular season for the Eagles, winning all three of their “must win” games. He’s on a roll right now, and cannot be overlooked. However, Foles is one streaky player. He can go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in one week. All someone needs to do is look at week 1 of the NFL season, when he was held to a 50.7 quarterback rating against the Falcons and why he hasn’t held a starting job in the NFL for quite some time.
In my opinion, there are two huge knocks against Foles for this game. For one thing, he hasn’t faced a defense quite like this one. The Bears are an absolute force, ranking third in overall defense, according to ESPN. The likes of Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Leonard Floyd are going to cause some serious damage to the Eagles quarterback. Secondly, Foles is dealing with some bruised ribs that he suffered in their week 17 game against Washington. Those bruised ribs are going to have a severe impact on this game.
As for the Bears, they are going to ride with Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky, the second overall pick in the 2017 draft, has made some HUGE strides this season, thanks to the tutelage of head coach Matt Nagy. As with Foles, Trubisky has done a great job the past three weeks, not throwing a single interception, and completing over 75 percent of his passes.
Trubisky has done a remarkable job this season for the Bears. He’s 11-3 this season as a starter, thrown for 24 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, passed the 3,000 yard mark for the first time in his young career, and has really taken a leadership role. In the biggest games this season, against the Rams at home on a Sunday night and against Minnesota in Week 17, he showed up. Yes, in that Rams game, he threw three interceptions, but he did what he had to seal the victory for Chicago.
Trubisky’s biggest asset is his ability to extend plays with his legs. He’s not quite on a level with Cam Newton or Russell Wilson, but he has kept several drives alive by escaping the pocket and running past some linebackers. Trubisky had the second most rushing yards of any NFC quarterback this season, and it’s a good bet the Eagles are going to try and slow that down significantly.
In my opinion, there is one big question mark for Trubisky. He hasn’t ever played in a postseason game. There is a big difference between the regular season and the postseason, and it remains to be seen if Trubisky can handle it. He’s proven this season that he is a good quarterback, and his ceiling remains high. If Trubisky can continue his trend, then the Bears will be in good shape.
Philadelphia benefitted from having some solid running backs to help Foles in their Super Bowl run. They had Corey Clement, Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount as part of a running back-by-committee group. This year however, both Ajayi and Clement are on injured reserve. They have to rely on Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles, not exactly a fierce rushing squadron. Adams, their leading rusher, has 511 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. They can make some big plays, but it’s nowhere near that fierce attack they had last year.
Adding to the damage is the fact that the Chicago Bears run defense is ranked first in the NFL in rushing yards per game. They only allow 3.8 yards per carry, and as an added bonus, the Bears are extra dominant in Soldier Field, not allowing more than 55 yards in any game. The Eagles run offense is not exactly the threat it was a year ago.
The Eagles aren’t exactly one-dimensional, but the running backs just can’t seem to find the holes to get through and gain five or six yards per carry.
The Bears defense, again, is going to be a threat that the Eagles won’t be able to contend with. The front line of Hicks, Mack, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith and the rest of the squad hasn’t let the team down once this year. Adding in the fact that this is a home game for Chicago, it’s just ripe for a big game against the Eagles.
As for Chicago, the running back duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen has been pacing the Bears all season long. Howard, despite not reaching 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his career, has turned it on as of late. Cohen, however, is undoubtedly the team’s most explosive player. He can catch the ball as a receiver, he’s hard to tackle and he can just make defenses look really stupid.
Cohen is also poised to have a field day against the Eagles, as they have a hard time against pass-catching running backs. While their defensive front is nothing short of spectacular, the Eagles secondary is questionable at best. They’ve had a number of injuries, forcing the Eagles to rely on unproven talent. The Bears should have the edge in this matchup, especially with Nagy’s ability to make some great trick plays with Cohen. Trubisky will be able to exploit their weakened secondary, and Chicago can score some big plays with it.
Wide Receivers + Tight Ends
The Eagles have the advantage here. They have some high flying receivers and arguably a top-three tight end. Nelson Agholor, Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz provide some major offensive weapons for Foles. Ertz, arguably the most explosive of the bunch, has had a major season. He’s grabbed 116 receptions for over 1,100 yards, five of which have gone for over 100 yards. Chicago is going to be highly concerned on where number 86 is going to be at all times.
Jeffery, who pissed off a lot of Bears fans with his comment about Chicago being “where I was for work,” has had a productive year as well, grabbing 65 receptions for over 800 yards and six touchdowns. While he hasn’t reached that 1,000 yard receiving mark since being a Bear, Jeffery can still catch nearly every ball that is thrown his way. To put it simply, he’s an outstanding wide receiver with amazing hands.
As for Agholor, he’s had 64 receptions for over 700 yards and four touchdowns. The former first round pick has all the speed and size to make a great impact on the game. The Bears secondary are going to have to be on their top game against these receivers. Chicago does lead the league in interceptions, so they have been phenomenal all season long. They can do this one more time.
As for the Bears, this is the one area that they have drastically upgraded from last year to this year. They do not have a bonafide number one receiver like most teams, but they have a lot of players that split the load and can be the difference maker on a week-to-week basis.
The bears do boast some great receivers, as Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller have been better than advertised. Trey Burton, who played for the Eagles last year and was the person that threw the vaunted “Philly Special” touchdown, has been a great part of this offense. Robinson has 55 catches for 754 yards and four touchdowns, Gabriel has 67 receptions for 688 yards and two touchdowns, and Miller, while only grabbing 33 catches, has over 400 yards and seven touchdowns. Burton has been worth every cent, as he has over 50 receptions for 569 yards and six touchdowns.
However, Miller, Robinson and Gabriel have been going through some injuries the past couple weeks and could be at less than 100%. All three receivers have practiced in full this week, which puts them on track to being near 100% come game day. As stated already, the Eagles secondary is not that great, so these receivers could be in for a big day.
The Eagles have a good front four. Fletcher Cox, Michael Bennett, Chris Long and Brandon Graham all have the potential to make life a living hell for Trubisky. Cox, the most talented of the group, has the ability to damage the opposing quarterback just by lining up on the ball. They have depth as well, something that could be brutal for the Bears to counter-act. However, their secondary, as mentioned above, has been ravaged with injuries.
The Eagles, despite having all these injuries, are also battle tested. They are formidable, and they will find a way to get to Trubisky. Their defense won the Super Bowl for them last year, just by making a great play. It will be an interesting theme to see how both of these teams go for one another. But, one thing is for sure, the Eagles will be tough.
The Bears defense…yeah I don’t have to say much. This group has been one of the premier defenses in the entire NFL. Mack, Floyd, Hicks, Eddie Jackson, the list goes on and on. They’re making takeaways, they’re stopping everyone and they’re bringing back the “Monsters of the Midway” moniker.
They’re exceptionally tough at home. The Bears have only lost one game at Soldier Field, and they came within a yard of sending it to overtime. They’re number three in overall defense according to ESPN. They’re the backbone of this playoff run. The only problem is that Jackson has been injured and is going to be a real game-time decision. That is huge for the Eagles, as he was one of the best defenders the Bears have. If he doesn’t play, that’s a huge loss for the Bears.
Final Analysis And Prediction
It’s an exciting time for Chicago fans. They’re on top of the division, they have one the most exciting defenses the NFL has seen and the entire culture has changed within a season. Despite the NFL seeing more and more offensive prowess, Chicago has made the games interesting and riveting.
The Eagles are the defending Super Bowl champions. They are once again riding that underdog moniker that led them throughout the playoffs last year. Nick Foles is once again under center and riding an incredible hot streak. It’s hard to count the Eagles out, even if they don’t resemble what they were last year.
However, this is where their season ends. Chicago’s defense is going to take advantage of a banged up Foles, Trubisky is going to step up and prove every single doubter wrong and the Bears are going to win this one. FINAL SCORE: 24-13 CHICAGO