Bears Offense vs. Eagles Defense
QB/WRs vs. DBs
After a miserable first half against the Bucs, Kyle Orton came out and threw the ball well. He looked sharp and seemed to be more in the flow of the game. On the plus side, receiver Brandon Lloyd had his welcome-back-to-the-NFL party against the Bucs, grabbing six passes for 124 yards, one TD, and a two-point conversion catch.
On the negative, Hester is coming off a rib injury (didn’t do much on offense before he got hurt anyway) and looks like he will not be available. Rashied Davis has had a bad case of the butter fingers the past couple weeks, Marty Booker has been non existent on the field, Earl Bennett hasn’t even made it on the field, and Mark Bradley is no longer with the team.
This against the likes of Brian Dawkins, Sheldon Brown, Asante Samuel, and, in nickel situations, Lito Sheppard...Ouch.
RB/TEs vs. LBs
Matt Forte (Fort Matt) continues to be an outstanding running back. He had a combined 155 yards rushing and receiving last game, plus another TD. Jason McKie is still a serviceable fullback. Not outstanding, but he had a couple catches last week. Clark and Olsen still seem as if they are not in the offense as much as they should be.
Clark dropped a touchdown pass from Orton in the first half, and Olsen is still not living up to the first-round draft pick, but the potential is there. The Eagles' LBs are young and eager.
Gocong and Gaither are both in their third seasons, with MLB Stewart Bradley in only his second. They move well and Gaither had 1.5 sacks last week against the Steelers. They will have their hands full, trying to contain Forte, so look for Dawkins or Quintin Mikell to come up in support.
The Eagles rank first in rush yards per game, giving up just a mere 45.7. The Eagles have a good, young core, but with the speed of Olsen and the experience of Clark at TE, and Forte getting 20+ carries, it's going to be tough.
O-Line vs. D-Line
Last week, Orton was sacked three times and was pressured constantly. While the Eagles' defensive line by themselves is formidable, the Eagles' blitz package is very, very good. Tackles John Tait and John St. Clair are going to have their hands full.
Center Olin Kruetz is going to have to lead this group and be prepared for all the line stunts and late blitzes. This will be their toughest challenge so far this year. The Eagles defense sacked Big Ben Roethlisberger nine, count them, NINE times and six-and-a-half of those were by the line.
The ends, Parker and Cole (and backup Darren Howard) manhandled the Steelers. And even though it was a close-scoring game, the Steelers only managed 33 yards rushing. If the Bears' O-line does not have the best game of the year, the Eagles are going to feast on Orton.
Eagles Offense vs. Bears Defense
QB/WRs vs. DBs
Donavon McNabb is having a good start to the year, but he got a little banged up last game. I don’t care what the injury report says; he is starting this week. At receiver, rookie DeSean Jackson has shown great explosiveness so far, with two 100-yard receiving games. However, Jackson is their only real option because injuries have devastated that position.
Reggie Brown finally got into a game last week but didn’t record a catch. Greg Lewis is serviceable, but his numbers aren’t that hot (he had a 100-yard game in the opening weekend, but it was against the Rams).
Kevin Curtis is doubtful for this week and hasn’t played a game all year. Their other options are Hank Baskett and Jason Avant. Despite all the injuries though, I will point out that the Eagles currently rank third in passing yards per game, with 289.3.
The receivers will be lined up against Nathan Vasher and Peanut Tillman on the corners, Mike Brown roaming at free safety, and Kevin Payne, who had a nice interception last week, at strong safety.
Add in Corey Graham, the nickel corner that had several pass breakups last week, and I would say this is a pretty good unit. It’s a close one but...
RB/TEs vs. LBs
Brian Westbrook is a beast. But he is currently nursing a sore ankle (listed as a game-time decision). Correll Buckhalter is a good backup if he has to see more action. L.J. Smith has been playing with McNabb for some time and is a pretty good option on third down. He runs faster than a lot of other tight ends, but he is currently on the injury report also, listed with a back problem.
They are matched up against a pretty good linebacking corps. Lance Briggs earned his paycheck last week with six tackles and a very athletic interception. Brian Urlacher also had six tackles and a fumble recovery.
However, Hunter Hillenmeyer did not have the best game. He plays pretty well on the strong side against the run, but when it comes to pass coverage, he has gotten burned.
Two weeks ago he gave up a 20+ yard catch to Carolina tight end Jeff King that set up the go-ahead score, and then last week, Jeremy Stevens had a long catch to give the Bucs a first down on the final drive of the fourth quarter, and then Hunter gave up the tying TD to Stevens with seven seconds left.
He has to start bringing it and bringing it soon otherwise I think the Bears should see what back up LB Jamar Williams has in him.
Advantage: If Westbrook plays, nod to the EAGLES. If Westbrook does not play, gotta give it to the BEARS.
O-line vs. D-line
The Eagles' offensive line have given up seven sacks so far this season, which isn’t bad, but they rank 27th in rush yards per game. I realize that stat doesn’t reflect the O-line's overall abilities, because Westbrook is constantly catching screens and dump offs, and as the Bucs showed last week, you do not necessarily need to run the ball to beat the Bears (Although, if McNabb throws it 67 times, I like the Bears' chances).
Both tackles, William Thomas and John Runyan, are experienced veterans, and Runyan especially has a mean streak in him a mile long. The Bears' D-Line did not play up to standards last week.
While the Bucs did nothing on the ground, Griese was not sacked once, despite going back to pass 67 TIMES! Tommie Harris is listed as questionable on the injury report, but expect him to play.
Even so, Harris hasn’t been as disruptive as hoped or as he should be for a Pro Bowler. Dusty Dvoracek, the other DT, played with a lot of energy last week, but unless the ends, Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye (+ Mark Anderson) can pressure McNabb, it could be a long game.
Eagles kicker David Akers is 6-for-6 in field-goal tries this year and continues to be a staple on the Eagles' kicking game. Punter Sav Rocca, one of the best names in the NFL, has done well through the first three games, landing six of 12 punts inside the 20, with an average net of 44.1 yds.
DeSean Jackson is a major threat at punt returner and undrafted rookie Quintin Demps has shown some big-play ability, ripping off a 47-yard kick return against Dallas. The coverage units are decent, although Felix Jones took a kickoff back 98 yards a couple weeks ago.
Bears kicker Robbie Gould missed his first field goal of the year last game, but he has hit on all six others. Punter Brad Maynard had a very nice game for himself last week, with three of six landing inside the 20 and a long of 53 yards, but his yearly net average is only 37.3.
With Devin Hester likely out for this game, look for more Danieal Manning, who scampered for a 46-yard return last week, returning kicks and Nathan Vasher returning punts. The Bears' coverage unit is one of the best in the NFL.
Lovie Smith and Ron Turner figured out how to get the offense going in the second half last week, but another lead was still lost, as was the game. Andy Reid is good, period, and Jim Johnson’s blitz packages are some of the best-schemed plays you will see on the defensive side of the ball.
It’s bad when the coach who is doing the best on the Bears is Dave Toub, the special-teams coordinator. Until Lovie can show me something...
I know it's cheating, but I am giving two predictions, one with my head and one with my heart.
My head (logically) give this game to the Eagles 27-17.
My heart (I always believe the Bears will win) gives it to the Bears 27-24.