Chicago Bears: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 16

William CaultonContributor IIIDecember 18, 2013

Chicago Bears: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 16

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    After an assist from the Baltimore Ravens, the 8-6 Chicago Bears hold sole possession of first place in the NFC North. Heading into their Week 16 matchup with the 8-6 Philadelphia Eagles, the Bears need a win to hold off the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, both sitting within a game of the division lead.

    The Eagles, winners of five in a row before falling to the Minnesota Vikings 48-30 in Week 15, have a one-game lead over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East. In the following slideshow, check out six things you need to know about this Week 16 NFC matchup.

Vegas Says Philadelphia by 3.5

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    According to VegasInsider.com, the point spread favors the Eagles to win by more than a field goal. The majority of bettors, however, don’t see that happening; 62 percent of the early action has been played on the Bears.

    Perhaps bettors are looking at very recent history. The Bears are coming off a big win, while the Eagles are coming off their worst loss of the season, a 48-30 drumming from a Vikings team without Adrian Peterson.

    It should be noted, though, that big wins don’t always find follow-up victories, and teams tend to bounce back from lopsided losses. So, if you’re laying money this week, don’t let Week 15 performances alone dictate your pick.

Offense Will Reign Supreme

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    Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

    This game features the highest over/under (56.5) of all Week 16 matchups, according to VegasInsider.com. Even so, 88 percent of early bettors are taking the “over.” Essentially it all means that oddsmakers, bettors, fans—everyone—is expecting a lot of points Sunday night.

    The Eagles' offense is talented across the board, from the skill positions to the offensive line. The trio of Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson leads the attack; all rank near the top of the charts in several statistical categories at their position. Wide receiver Riley Cooper and tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek are also weapons.

    Check out the charts below to see how each offense stacks up against the opposing defense.

     Total Yds Pass Yds Rush Yds Points 
    Eagles Offense  414 261 153 26.0
    Bears Defense 380 228 152 27.9

     

     Total Yds Pass Yds Rush Yds Points 
    Bears Offense  393276 11829.0 
    Eagles Defense 402292 11124.9 

     

Lance Briggs Might Play

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    Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    According to CBS Chicago's Adam Hoge, Marc Trestman is "reasonably optimistic" that Lance Briggs will play versus the Eagles, though the decision won’t be made until Friday.

    “He worked today. Looked good,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said via Hoge. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow, but I would still have to say he’s questionable, but we’re reasonably optimistic that he’ll be playing.”

    With Briggs back in the lineup, there’s hope to slow down Philadelphia’s running attack. In recent weeks, the Bears' biggest issue in stopping the run has been the linebackers’ inability to shed blocks. This is an area where Briggs excels. In his seven games this year, by Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) count, he produced 28 stops (solo tackles accounting for an offensive failure) not including his two sacks.

    The chart below shows how that number stacks up against the active linebackers. Note that sacks have been subtracted from the number of stops to better represent impact in run defense. Also, the number of plays represents only plays in run defense, though the number of stops could include passing plays, like screen passes or checkdowns.

     Run Plays Stops Run Plays/Stop
    James Anderson  408 32 12.8
    Jon Bostic  268 25 10.7
    Lance Briggs  186 28 6.6
    Khaseem Greene 145 12 12.1
    Blake Costanzo  15 0 --

The Impact of Jeremiah Ratliff

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    While Bears fans should be excited about the prospect of getting Briggs back, perhaps equally exciting is what Jeremiah Ratliff, the Bears’ midseason pickup at defensive tackle, has done since entering the lineup Week 13.

    Ratliff, logging 23 snaps in his debut and then 44 and 46 snaps in the following weeks, has improved each week, according to Pro Football Focus. Against the Cleveland Browns, his run defense grade jumped to a respectable number, marking one of the few times in the past half-season that any Bears defender graded positively in run defense.

    If Ratliff can continue to disrupt running lanes, the Bears have a chance of turning around their historically feeble run defense, and the timing couldn’t be better. The Eagles boast the NFL’s most prolific rushing attack, led by the NFL’s leading rusher, LeSean McCoy.

Fear the Home Run Pass off Play Action

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    Nick Foles only hits on 54.4 percent of his play-action passes, per PFF, but in just 79 attempts, he’s tossed for 898 yards, an 11.4 average (second in the league) to go along with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. The Eagles love the home run pass off play action, and why not? They have one of the premier deep-route runners in the game in DeSean Jackson.

    Tim Jennings has shut down Dez Bryant and Josh Gordon the past two weeks, and he’ll have his hands full again on Sunday against Jackson, who ranks fifth in the league with 1,275 yards and has 24 catches of 20 yards or more.

    If Foles gets the Bears safeties to bite on play action, it’ll be Jennings versus Jackson, mano a mano. Even with Jennings’ recent Pro Bowl-caliber performances, with enough deep routes in man coverage, he’s going to get burned.

The Dynamic Duo

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    The Bears can always count on having one major advantage every week: their wide receivers versus whomever. This time around, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery will face off against cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams. Over the top they’ll likely find acquaintance with Patrick Chung and Nate Allen, the free and strong safeties.

    While the Philadelphia secondary is bigger than most (Fletcher, Williams and Allen all stand 6’ or taller), none of those defenders have the ball-hawking skills to slow down either Marshall or Jeffery.

    Against Cleveland, Jay Cutler targeted Marshall 13 times, connecting six times. Jeffery was targeted just five times; all five were caught. Against Philadelphia, look for Cutler to continue to target Marshall, as he’s done since No. 15 arrived in Chicago, but expect Jeffery to see more than five looks.