This time last week it felt like a long-shot that the Eagles would be in the playoffs. All of Philadelphia were rooting for the Eagles and the Bears!
Fast forward one week later, the Eagles are indeed back in the playoffs, and the Philly/Chicago love affair is a distant memory.
There are a lot of interesting story-lines for this marquee wildcard match-up. Here’s the five things that I’m looking at as we crawl toward Sunday…
- Very similar
Ru and myself pointed this out earlier in the week…
….but this game is eerily similar to the Rams/Falcons wildcard match-up from 2017.
Just like the 2018 Bears, the 2017 Rams finished as the 3 seed and hosted the defending NFC champion as a heavy (6.5) favorite. And just like the 2017 Rams, the Bears come in with limited playoff experience.
In fact, the 2018 Bears resemble the 2017 Rams in general.
-First year upstart head coach with a great offensive mind
-Veteran defensive coordinator, with a really good defense and pass rush
-Second year QB that may or may not be good/a product of the system
-Major turnaround from the year before
It’s funny because I did a Q&A with Bears blogger Jeff Hughes last season, and he predicted that the 2018 Bears could turn into the 2017 Rams….
Unfortunately for the 2017 Rams, they could not get a playoff win despite being a 6.5 point favorite at home.
Will history repeat itself on Sunday?
We know how good the Bears D is. They rush the passer, they stop the run, you name it, they do it. But what sets them apart is their ability to create turnovers. They have 36 takeaways this season.
The game I keep going back to is Bears/Rams from week 14.
The Bears defense was ferocious per usual. Todd Gurley was held to just 58 total yards. They picked off Jared Goff four times, and held him to only 180 yards passing with a 19.1 QB rating. They also sacked him 3 times.
It was pure domination.
So why the hell did the Bears only win this game 15-6?
Mitchell Trubisky, who was brutal in this game as well, had 3 interceptions of his own. Thanks to the turnovers, the Rams were able to stay in this game despite their high powered offense being completely shut down by the Bears D.
The Bears lead the league with their 36 takeaways, but also have 24 giveaways which is the 8th most in the league, and one more than the Eagles.
The Eagles, who have a -6 giveaway/takeaway ratio, have only created 17 turnovers this season. However, 8 of those 17 ( it should have been 9 of 18 but Clete Blakeman is an idiot) have come over the last four weeks. It’s no surprise that they are 3-1 in those games.
The #Eagles have been getting turnovers ever since that black ski mask showed up.
"I wouldn't say it's coincidence."
— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) January 3, 2019
The Bears D should be just as ferocious as the one we saw back in week 14, so I wouldn’t expect a Super Bowl 52 type of performance from Nick Foles.
Foles has thrown an interception in four of his five starts this season, including each of the last three. But as long as he doesn’t turn the ball over multiple times, ala Jared Goff, the Eagles should remain in this game.
If they could take it a step further and win the turnover battle, they will have a pretty damn good shot at walking out of Solider Field with a win.
- The trenches
This will be the battle of the game… on both sides of the ball.
-The Bears are third in the league with 50 team sacks this season.
-The Eagles have given up 40 sacks this season (16th in the league) but were able to shut out JJ Watt, and hold the Rams to zero sacks for only the second time all season.
-The Eagles D is 8th in the league with 44 sacks, 13 of which have come over the last four weeks.
-The Bears have allowed 33 sacks this season (8th in the league) 13 of those 33 came in their four losses.
Getting after the QB goes hand-in-hand with turnovers. Which D line/O Line will step up?
Bears defense has given up fewest points in NFL and is considered the best D in NFL
Fletcher Cox 🔥🔥
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) January 3, 2019
- The Alshon factor
Alshon Jeffery is coming back to Chicago with a chip on his shoulder.
— Jeff Skversky (@JeffSkversky) January 2, 2019
He has been a monster over the past 3 weeks, catching 16 passes for 301 yards and a TD.
Last year he went for 5/52/1 vs the Bears in Philly, but now he returns to Chicago for the first time.
I love players going back to face their old team/City. I could see Alshon being the X-factor on Sunday.
- Hungry dogs run faster
It’s happening again……
NFL Super Bowl winner updated
— Jeff Sherman (@golfodds) January 2, 2019
The Eagles are the biggest underdog of the weekend, currently at +6.5 for Sunday.
I don’t know how the other Philly guys/girl at Branded are feeling about this game, but I’m feeling pretty confident.
I think experience will be a MAJOR factor in this game. The Eagles have been there before, Mitch Trubisky has not.
— Brian (@B_McGLOCK) January 2, 2019
I’m expecting a knock-down, drag-out type of game. I don’t see either team scoring very many points.
The Bears have been great all season. They are winners of 9 out of their last 10, and have the best defense in the league. But something has clicked for the Eagles, especially on defense. If they can get to Trubisky and force a few bad decisions, while limiting their own mistakes, they will win this game.
The Bears D is legit, but I think the Eagles are done yet. The experienced hungry dogs move on to New Orleans.
Eagles 20, Bears 16
Cue the hype videos…
This was from last season, but damn it gets me every time…