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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles: Don't Worry About the Cowboys

by: Ryan Waldis
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Photo Courtesy: Philadelphia Eagles
The way things are shaping up, many believe that if the Dallas Cowboys defeat the Washington Redskins in Landover, the Sunday Night match-up between the Bears and Eagles won't matter. Essentially, these people are right; the Eagles wouldn't be able to clinch the NFC East, and the only things they'd have to gain are a leg up on the NFC North division winner for the third seed and some momentum heading into Week 17's game against the Cowboys in Dallas. Still, even if the Cowboys take care of business against the Redskins, the Eagles match-up with the Bears matters a lot more than one might think. The team is coming off of a terrible loss to a lowly Minnesota Vikings team. They simply can't afford to have another off week, especially not in front of a national audience. Sure, a win might not do much, but it would at least let the country know that this team is for real. In this day and age, that counts for a lot more than you might think.

The Last Time They Met: November 7, 2011- Bears 30, Eagles 24
Forte torched the Eagles defense in 2011.
Photo Courtesy:

Apparently, seeing a team for five straight years doesn't help when determining what their strengths and weaknesses are, at least not when that team is the Bears. The Eagles saw the Bears for the fifth consecutive year in 2011, but the result was the same: another loss. In fact, the Eagles managed to lose to the Bears in four of the five years they played each other, but that's a different story. Regardless, the Eagles blew a fourth quarter lead (doesn't that sound all too familiar?) and fell to 3-5 in the process, trailing the first place Giants by three games.

The offense wasn't as consistent as it could have been, but it wasn't necessarily the problem either. Michael Vick finished with 21 completions on 38 attempts for 213 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He gained 34 yards on the ground as well. LeSean McCoy rushed for 71 yards and a TD, and even Ronnie Brown found the endzone. The offense converted on eight of 14 third downs, and were one of three on fourth downs, but it wasn't enough.

The defense let Matt Forte rush for 133 yards on 24 carries, and while he didn't get a TD, former Cowboy Marion Barber did. They also let Jay Cutler complete 18 of his 32 passes for 208 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. It's clear that the Bears wanted the win much more than the "Dream Team," and when all was said and done, the Bears improved to 5-3.

Eagles Offense vs. Bears Defense
If this man doesn't get the ball, the Eagles won't win.
Photo Courtesy: Huffington Post

If LeSean McCoy doesn't get the ball and carry the team, something is seriously wrong. The Bears come into the game with one of the worst run defenses in the league. To put it simply, their run defense is awful. They allow an average of 152.4 rush yards per game, roughly 20 more yards than the next team on the list. Lance Briggs may return from injury this week, which would help the Bears run defense slightly as it would take rookie Khaseem Greene off of the field. However, Briggs is getting up there in age, so he wouldn't be on the field for a decent amount of snaps. Jeremiah Ratliff and Julius Peppers are decent run-stoppers, but they can't stop McCoy (or, at least, he shouldn't be able too) without a lot of help. Regardless, if Chip Kelly and the Eagles fail to utilize a guy who is 171 yards away from breaking the franchise record for rushing yards in a season, they don't deserve to win.

Aside from the horrendous run defense, the Bears secondary isn't that good either. Let's face it: Tim Jennings, Major Wright, Chris Conte, and Isaiah Frey don't exactly intimidate opposing offenses. Sure, the Eagles can't take them lightly, but they should be able to at least exploit them a lot throughout the game. Zack Bowman has been playing like the team's best CB over the past several weeks, and seems to be making a case to become a starter. He intercepted a Jason Campbell pass and brought it back for a TD, so at least he's making a good impression in just his sixth year in the league. DeSean Jackson should be able to torch Bowman or Jennings or anyone really; he's simply much better than the entire Bears secondary. I can also see Riley Cooper performing well, especially if Nick Foles is on his A-Game. He's no stranger to prime time games in the NFL (this will be his fourth, as he started a Sunday, Monday, and Thursday Night game last year), so the bright lights shouldn't be a problem.

Bears Offense vs. Eagles Defense

Two very dangerous tasks for the Eagles.
Photo Courtesy: CSN Philly
We'll get to Matt Forte in a bit, but first it's necessary to address just how dangerous this Bears offense is in terms of WR's and TE's. Going up against an Eagles secondary that has improved but is vulnerable to letting up big plays at times (just ask Greg Jennings), the Bears have an opportunity to complete pass after pass to any of their targets. Earl Wolff and Brandon Boykin will be back in action, which helps. Still, it's not easy to feel confident about Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher lining up across from Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Marshall on the year has 90 receptions for 1,185 yards and 10 TD's, while Jeffery has 80 receptions for 1,265 yards and seven TD's. Aside from the Broncos, this group of receivers is easily the toughest the Eagles have had to deal with. TE Martellus Bennett is also having a decent season, with 659 yards and five TD's on 59 receptions. As bad as the Bears run defense will be against McCoy, the Eagles pass defense may look worse against Marshall, Jeffery, and Bennett.

Now, let's get to perhaps one of the more underrated RB's in the league, Matt Forte. On the year, Forte has carried the ball 258 times for an even 1,200 yards and seven TD's, but he's also a threat in the passing game (go figure!) He's hauled in 66 passes for 522 yards and two TD's. The Eagles run defense is good, but Forte is easily their toughest test in a while. It well help to have Mychal Kendricks out there, but he can't do everything himself. If Cedric Thornton, Fletcher Cox, and Bennie Logan are able to able to plug the holes to keep Forte in the backfield just a second longer, that would be a tremendous help to Kendricks, Trent Cole, DeMeco Ryans, and Connor Barwin. Maybe going up against an offensive line that has four new members (including two rookies) from last season could help.

Special Teams Battle

Devin Hester is a dangerous returner.
Photo Courtesy: Bleacher Report
Robbie Gould is about as accurate as you can get. So far, he's converted on 25 of his 28 field goal attempts (89.3 percent), with a long of 58. Punter Adam Podlesh has placed 24 of his 58 punts inside the 20. On the season, he has a net average of 38.5, with a long of 65. For the second straight week, the Eagles have to go up against a dangerous returner. This week, it's Devin Hester. He hasn't returned any kickoffs for TD's yet (although he does have an 80 yard return), but he has returned one punt for a TD. Chip Kelly had Alex Henery perform "mortar kicks" to keep the ball away from Patterson, so you may end up getting frustrated at that again.

Henery has converted on 21 of his 26 field goal attempts this season (80.8 percent), with a long of 51. Donnie Jones has placed 30 of his 75 punts inside the 20, and has been one of the punters in the league this season. He has a net average of 40.1, with a long of 70. Damaris Johnson and Brandon Boykin have been the main kick return guys this season, but Brad Smith may start seeing more time back there. Johnson and DeSean Jackson have been the main punt return guys.

Prediction: Eagles 31, Bears 27

This game may end up not meaning a lot, but whether or not the Cowboys win doesn't matter. The Eagles have to show up this week, especially after fizzling out in Minnesota last Sunday. A win against a tough Bears team in front of a national audience would help a lot more than you might think.

Nick Foles will throw for about 270 yards and two touchdowns, while LeSean McCoy torches the the Bears defense, running for around 130 yards and two more touchdowns. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery will both put up some decent numbers, but in the end it just won't be enough. The Eagles will improve to 9-6, with a potential winner-take-all game against Dallas on the slate for next week.


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