The Chicago Bears have heard it all this season. "Their schedule is easy," "They will eventually fall out of the race," "They have lucky wins" and "Play a good team and see what happens."
Well on Sunday, the Bears will have the chance to shut the critics and rest of the NFL up as they host the hot and surging Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles come into town looking to continue their hot streak and make themselves known as the best team in the NFC. The Bears, however, are just looking for respect.
At 7-3, you would imagine a team would be considered a Super Bowl favorite. Not in Chicago, as many people around the NFL consider the Bears a weak NFL team.
With the Eagles as their opponent, it's the perfect chance for Chicago to make some noise in the NFL.
They will have to contain the MVP candidate that is Mike Vick.
Vick has resurrected his career in Philadelphia and is on pace to win the NFL's Most Valuable Player award. He only has one turnover on the season; a fumble in last week's win over the New York Giants.
Against the Bears, Vick is 0-3 and has thrown three interceptions and just one total touchdown. You can say Chicago has Vick's number.
However, this is a different Michael Vick, a more dangerous Vick who can stay in the pocket and find a receiver or make a play. He also has weapons to his disposal, fast weapons that can burn any defense and make you adjust your coverage.
One of those weapons is DeSean Jackson who will be matched up against the Bears corner backs in a battle to watch all game long. Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings will have the duties on covering the speedy Jackson.
If Chicago can limit the Eagles' big plays and contain Jackson, they will have only won a battle in the war.
Jeremy Maclin is another speedy receiver opposite of Jackson that gives Vick another deep threat. Chicago doesn't have a ton of speed in the secondary, so coverage will have to be outstanding to control the duo of receivers.
The Bears bring in the second-ranked rush defense against a Eagles run game that has found some momentum as of late.
LeSean McCoy had a nice game rushing against the Giants last week. Chicago can't let McCoy find the second level of the defense or they might be watching him run into the end zone.
The main thing for Chicago's defense is to contain the high-flying Eagles offense. They wont pitch a shutout, but just need to contain them and keep the Bears in the game.
Julius Peppers and the Bears defensive line will need to get pressure up front and dominate the Eagles on the line of scrimmage. Pressure on Vick is key, as the Giants did last week. Chicago needs to make life difficult for Vick and rush him into throws.
When Chicago has the ball, the match up to look for is the Bears wide receivers against the Eagles secondary. The Eagles are missing Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs, so they are down to their backup cornerbacks. Look for Jay Cutler to exploit that match up early and often.
If Cutler can get into a nice rhythm, it could be a good day for him. He can't make mistakes in this big of a game.
Sunday could be a nice game for Bears tight end Greg Olsen, who has been quiet for most of the season. Olsen provides a nice mismatch for the Bears offense against the Eagles defense.
Matt Forte should also be a concern for the Eagles defense. Forte isn't a big threat on the ground, but his receiving numbers for a running back are high, and he gives Cutler a nice target.
I believe Chicago will come out fired up and feed off the home-crowd energy. In a big game, Chicago will prevail and put themselves in the conversation of Super Bowl contenders.
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