It doesn't seem like it was that long ago that everyone was assuming the Lions would win the division and the Bears would be lucky to take second. Now, with Detroit struggling and the Packers still without Aaron Rodgers (according to ESPN's Adam Schefter), the Bears could clinch the division title and a playoff berth this week.
It won't be easy.
The Eagles were thought to be the hottest team in the NFL, having won five straight before losing to Minnesota 48-30 last week. That loss should be treated as an aberration, as the Eagles have been very good on both sides of the ball this season.
While Philadelphia gives up 24.9 points per game—17th in the league—they've only allowed 30 or more points three times and have limited their opponent to 20 or fewer seven times.
The fact that the Vikings scored 48 on them without Adrian Peterson or Toby Gerhart should be viewed as nothing more than a fluke.
The Eagles also score 26 points per game and are averaging 27.3 in their last six games.
For more information on this matchup I reached out to Eagles Featured Columnist Cody Swartz.
What is something you're concerned about with the Eagles facing the Bears?
Cody Swartz (CS): The Chicago Bears’ insanely talented receiver duo should terrify any Philadelphia Eagles fan. While the Eagles more than held their own defensively over the last two months, they were exposed against the Minnesota Vikings.
Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are capable of putting up monster numbers, and they’re facing an Eagles secondary with four players on the injury report.
That's the same answer I get every week and for good reason. They're both big, talented and have a knack for making some great catches.
The Eagles defense ranks 31st in passing yardage, so they could have their hands full with the Bears' dynamic duo.
That said, I still think running back Matt Forte is what makes the Bears offense go. Forte is third in the NFL with 1,200 rushing yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. He has also caught 66 passes for 522 yards and has nine combined touchdowns.
If the Bears can get Forte going, it will give them shorter distances on third downs and limit the impact of the Eagles pass rush.
What is one area you think the Eagles can exploit in the matchup?
CS: The Eagles need to take advantage of Jay Cutler’s tendency to be erratic. Cutler threw more interceptions in his first game back than Josh McCown has thrown in 220 passes this season. Philly has capitalized on turnovers during its recent hot streak, and winning the turnover battle is everything in the National Football League.
It’s to be expected that Marshall and Jeffery make a couple of big plays, but the Eagles need their secondary to do the same.
You're probably judging too much on raw statistics and not game film.
Cutler's 10 interceptions are a bit high, and his interception percentage of 3.4 is right at his career average, but there's more to it than the numbers.
He's had some bad luck with two interceptions that were tipped at the line and two more that went off his receivers' hands. Last week, he had some rust early but finished strong.
It isn't as if he has made more poor throws than McCown did, he just hasn't been nearly as fortunate. In the last three games Cutler has completed, he has an average passer rating of 112.2.
I would be much more confident in the Eagles' ability to run the ball on the Bears' terrible run defense.
Who do you think wins and why?
CS: This is going to be a close matchup between two first-place NFC teams fighting for a playoff spot. The Eagles can afford to lose this game in the sense that they can still win the division the following week against the Dallas Cowboys.
But don’t expect Chip Kelly to take it easy against the Bears, regardless of what the Cowboys do against Washington at 1 p.m. The Eagles will come out firing, looking to redeem themselves after a brutal 18-point loss to a vastly inferior Vikings team.
The key will be giving LeSean McCoy the ball over and over again versus a Chicago run defense that is historically awful. The Bears, who are just the second team since 2000 to allow at least 5.2 yards per rush, haven’t stopped anyone recently.
Now they get a top-three back behind the NFL’s best run-blocking offensive line. That’s a problem for Chicago, even more so than Philly’s tough matchup against the Bears’ receivers.
Look for a back-and-forth game into the fourth quarter, but one that Philly wins in a squeaker.
Eagles 30, Bears 27.
I hate to say it, but I agree with you.
I simply don't see how the Bears are going to stop McCoy, especially if Lance Briggs isn't 100 percent. They could put up a bit more of a fight if Briggs plays at a high level and Stephen Paea (toe injury) is able to play more snaps and play more effectively alongside Jeremiah Ratliff.
Even then, the Bears will have to get middle linebacker Jon Bostic's best game of the season, and they'll need safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte to make stops in the open field.
I think the Bears will score plenty of points, but I don't see how they'll stop the Eagles.
I have Philadelphia winning this one, 42-31.
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