PHILADELPHIA (CBS 3)- The Philadelphia Eagles finally return home to the friendly confines of Lincoln Financial Field Sunday following a three-game road swing that saw a pair of blowouts at the hands of NFC rivals and a solid win over an AFC playoff contender.
But, the roller coaster season of expectations continued on Tuesday, when the team decided not to make any further trades prior to the deadline. For better or worse, the roster that has gotten the team out to a 4-4 start is the one they will roll with through the rest of the season, as the attempt to make a playoff push. Now, the team welcomes the Chicago Bears to town. The Bears, at 3-4, have been similarly disappointing for fans hoping to take a step forward from last year’s Wild Card-round loss to these Eagles.
For the Birds, this game kicks off a second-half schedule that will see them host five of their final eight games. Getting started with a victory over the Bears would be optimal, considering the fact that the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks come to town in the weeks immediately following the Week 10 bye.
In similar fashion to last season, the Bears win games based on their defense. Chicago ranks as the seventh-best unit in the league, according to Football Outsiders’ defensive efficiency metrics and rank fifth in scoring defense, allowing just over 17 points per outing. Opponents have generally found more success passing than running this season. Only the Raiders and Saints have surpassed 100 yards on the ground against the Bears this season.
That means last week’s successful game plan that saw the Eagles rush for a Pederson-era high of 218 yards is probably unlikely to be as strong this week. Still, running backs Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders have proven to be effective runners, and the offensive line seems to be at its best in the run game. If the Eagles do look to throw the ball more, the quick passing game is likely to be the most effective.
In the losses to the Vikings and Cowboys, Wentz’s time to throw according to NFL NextGen Stats was 2.82 and 3.31 seconds respectively. Both marks among the slowest in the league. In last week’s win against the Bills, that time was 2.73 seconds, and for the season, removing the Cowboys and Vikings games, he has averaged about 2.6 seconds. The losses to Minnesota and Dallas were the team’s worst of the season and also arguably where Wentz has looked his worst on the year. While Miles Sanders has proven to be an explosive weapon out of the backfield, the Eagles just haven’t found a consistent deep threat this season. Those shorter, quicker throws have been more effective.
And that ties in well in helping the offensive line against the Bears pass rush that features Khalil Mack, Roy-Robertson Harris and Leonard Floyd. That trio has combined for 10 sacks this season. It always helps the offensive line protect when players get the ball out of their hands quickly, so that will be something to watch for on offense.
On the defensive side, the Eagles still have a lot to prove despite last week’s good performance against Buffalo. Despite allowing just 13 points to the Bills, they still allowed Buffalo to convert on third downs of eight yards (twice), 13 yards (once) and 14 yards (twice). Getting your opponent behind the chains is the goal of any defense, so to allow conversions on third downs of that length is demoralizing.
Similar to last week, the Eagles will be facing an inconsistent quarterback who can make plays with his legs. Mitch Trubisky, like Josh Allen, has shown that ability. Also like Allen, he can struggle at times with his accuracy and decision-making. He is completing 64 percent of his passes this year but for only 5.6 yards per attempt. Complicating matters, the Bears offensive line is dealing with the loss of Kyle Long due to injury. They have given up six sacks in the team’s last two games.
As for who has the edge in this week’s matchup, CBS Minnesota sports anchor Mike Max believes it is the Birds because they have found their mojo.
“That’s a good question, because we have seen both of them here, and the Vikings have beaten both teams quite handily to be honest. I like Philadelphia. I think they found their mojo last week,” said Max. “I just think the Eagles have struggled and struggled and struggled to find an identity, but you saw Carson Wentz the other day with great pocket presence, moved around, was the leader on that team. I thought they took a real step forward, and given where both teams are, I like the Eagles in this one.”
The Eagles and Bears kick off from Lincoln Financial Field at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday.