Last Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles were faced with a must-win game to stay in the NFC East race. They were 3-4, coming off back-to-back embarrassing losses and traveling to take on a tough Buffalo team sitting at 5-1.
This week, the Bears find themselves in a near-identical situation.
Two of the Eagles’ losses were to quality opponents, Minnesota and Dallas that each pummeled Philadelphia, and the other two were by four points to Atlanta and three to Detroit.
For the Bears, there is no shame in losing to the Saints and the Packers, and their other two losses are by three points to Oakland and one to the Chargers last week.
On the face of things, the Eagles and Bears are about as evenly matched right now as two teams can be.
Philly responded with the hearts of champions in a dominant 31-13 win over the Bills. Whether or not there is any of that kind of mettle in the Bears, we will find out Sunday.
Eagles offense vs. Bears defense: Other than friends still in the Bears locker room, this should be just another game for Alshon Jeffery, who’s found a home in Philadelphia.
But Jordan Howard is an Eagle because his former team didn’t believe in him, and the Eagles’ leading rusher – 100-443-5 on the ground and 9-68-1 receiving – is certain to be amped for Bears Sunday.
Philly is 13th in the NFL rushing, and the passing game has struggled at 21st, so it is on the ground it will focus the attack against a Bears run “D” that ranks sixth in the league, despite a few uncharacteristic performances in London against Oakland and two weeks ago vs. the Saints.
Eagles QB Carson Wentz was the second pick in the 2016 draft, the spot Mitch Trubisky occupied in 2017, and while Wentz is well ahead of Trubisky, he’s struggling a bit to find his rhythm this season.
Rookie RB Miles Sanders, selected 20 spots ahead of David Montgomery, has been a big-play threat and a force in the passing game, but he injured his shoulder at Buffalo and his status is unknown.
DeSean Jackson was huge in the opener against Washington, but has been out since Week 2 and is scheduled to return vs. the Bears. Nelson Agholor has become a top possession target for Wentz, and Zach Ertz promises a dangerous matchup for Ha Ha Clinton Dix and Eddie Jackson as arguably the best tight end in the NFC.
As scary as that all sounds, the Bears defense still ranks 10th vs. the pass and tied for 5th in points allowed – ironically, with Buffalo, which allowed the Eagles 31 last week – at 17.4, while the Eagles are 14th in points scored (25.3).
This matchup will come down to whether or not the Bears can create pressure on Wentz – which has been an issue for Chicago against quality fronts since Akiem Hicks went down – against the Eagles outstanding O-line.
Bears offense vs. Eagles defense: The Eagles defense has been as banged up as their skill-position guys on offense – and the result is they are just 20th in the NFL in points allowed and 21st vs. the pass, although they currently are 14th in total defense and 8th against the run. They are solid getting off the field on third down (38.6%, 13th in the league), and behind Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Fletcher Cox, they will still mount a solid pass rush at times.
The Eagles are average at best at linebacker, and an outstanding pair of safeties in Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod too often lacks support from a middling pack of cornerbacks.
Philly does not appear to have an answer for Allen Robinson and is very susceptible to the deep ball – if the Bears get the right matchups on Taylor Gabriel and/or Anthony Miller.
The Eagles have one more takeaway than the Bears with 12 and are tied for 5th in the league in interceptions with eight.
Matched against most NFL offenses, they’d rate a tie at best, but against the Bears ...
Special Teams: The Bears continue to lead the league in both punt and kickoff return average, while the Eagles are 10th and 13th, respectively.
Philly is 17th and 29th covering punts and kicks, respectively, and the Bears are 13th and 28th.
Eddy Pineiro would have rated a slight edge over Philly’s Jake Elliott this season until missing two makeable field goals last week, and while Pat O’Donnell is having his best season as a Bear, the Eagles’ Cameron Johnson has been one of the best in the league this year.
How Pineiro bounces back will dictate the edge here.
COACHES: Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy are the best of friends, and it’s remarkable how similarly their teams have performed this season. But Pederson has more experience and a ring.