By Kevin McGuire
For the second time in three weeks the Philadelphia Eagles will take on the NFC North division leaders. Two weeks ago it was the Detroit Lions but now it is the Chicago Bears who come to Lincoln Financial Field for a clash of division leaders. The stakes are beginning to be as high as possible with playoff seeding now starting to become a realistic and relevant conversation as well. Can the Eagles knock off the rust after a rough outing in Minnesota against Bears team that enters with just as much at stake?
Here is a quick look at the next opponent for the Eagles, the Chicago Bears.
The Chicago Bears enter the weekend with the same record as the Eagles, 8-6. The Bears have lagged in NFC North play this season, winning just two out of five division match-ups, but they remain in position to battle for the division heading in to the final two games of the year. Chicago is also coming in to this weekend’s game with a back-to-back wins against the Dallas Cowboys and the Cleveland Browns. The Bears have been a tough team to forecast this season with wins and losses being exchanged back and forth since early October. The Bears are 3-4 on the road this season.
Bears on Offense
Chicago welcomed back quarterback Jay Cutler this past weekend against Cleveland. The Bears have the NFL’s seventh ranked overall offense, which is led through the air with the league’s fifth top passing offense. When the Bears do want to get some yards on the ground they can generally do so, with the 13th ranked rushing offense led by running back Matt Forte and his 1,200 rushing yards. If the Eagles defense play the way they did at Minnesota, Chicago is fully equipped to take advantage and get out of Philadelphia with a win. The Bears have scored 38 and 45 points in each of their last two games.
Bears on Defense
Only two teams in the NFC have allowed more points than the Bears this season, and they are each in last place in their respective divisions (Minnesota, Washington). The Bears have allowed an average of 26.1 points per game this season, and each of the past two weeks they have allowed 28 points. If the Eagles can keep plugging away on offense, they should be able to move the football and score some points against the Bears on Sunday night. The Eagles should look to regain their footing on the ground. The Bears are ranked dead last in the NFL against the run, allowing 152.4 rushing yards per game. If Chip Kelly doesn’t look to get LeSean McCoy in rhythm, something might be wrong.
Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver: The young Alshon Jeffery has certainly made his impact on the Chicago offense. Coming in to the week Jeffery leads the Bears in receiving with 1,265 yards and is second on the team in receiving touchdowns with seven. He has come more than a complimentary receiver to Brandon Marshall (1,185 yards, 10 touchdowns), he has become a bit of a play maker with some great hands and field awareness. The Eagles secondary will have their hands full with Jeffery and Marshall.
Julius Peppers, Defensive End: Veteran defensive end Julius Peppers has had his ups and downs this season and is coming off two shallow performances if you go strictly by stats. Peppers has just one tackle and one assist in the past two games. Still, the Eagles would be wise to try and keep Peppers from breaking out of that funk because he does have the ability to force Nick Foles out of the pocket if the offensive line is shaky as they were in Minnesota at times.
The Eagles could be in a position to clinch the NFC East with a win against Chicago if they happen o get a bit of help from Washington. Regardless of what happens down I-95 in a key NFC East game involving the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles will have their own problems to worry about. After an abysmal performance in Minnesota, the Eagles return home to take on a Bears team more than capable of handing them another loss if they don’t address some issues right away. The Bears have the kind of offense that can do some big things against the Eagles defense, but the Eagles should be able to find some big plays against the Chicago defense as well. This is also not a team that will be intimidated by the cold weather the way the Detroit Lions may have been a couple of weeks ago. This is a big test for the Eagles. How will they bounce back?
For more Eagles news and updates, visit Eagles Central.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.