Coming off the bye week and following two straight wins, the Chicago Bears are feeling pretty good about themselves right now. That feeling can change mighty quick after Monday night's game against the Philadelphia Eagles if all of the prognosticators are right.
Practically everyone is picking Philly, even though the Bears have a better record at 4-3. Nobody seems to be taking into consideration that Eagles QB Michael Vick has never beat the Bears in his career, going 0-4 against them.
It seems they're thinking that the best team that money could buy has found itself, and is ready to run rough-shod over the rest of the NFC.
Hub Arkush of Pro Football Weekly was so impressed with last week's 34-7 demolition of the Dallas Cowboys that he surmised on WSCR radio in Chicago that the Eagles might be the only team in the league that could compete with the undefeated Green Bay Packers.
I guess he wasn't quite as impressed with the Bears' squeaker in London over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two weeks ago.
Chicago has dominated Philadelphia in their history with a 29-11-1 record, including winning last year 31-26. That game was in Chicago before the home fans, while Monday will be before a raucous crowd of Philly fanatics.
The Bears are just 1-2 on the road, and may be facing Philadelphia at the wrong time, even though both teams have two-game winning streaks.
Under Coach Andy Reid, Philadelphia has been 42-42 before the bye and 78-36 after. Whatever he's been doing in that off week seems to be working as his teams have been 13-0 coming off the bye.
Adding six former Pro-Bowl players in the offseason was supposed to rectify their slow starts, but the way they're starting to play, that slow start might not matter, and that's why this game is so important for the Bears.
If the Eagles win, both teams will be 4-4 with Philadelphia having the all-important win in the head-to-head matchup. A loss would leave the Bears tied with Dallas and Tampa Bay in the standings, and behind Atlanta who is 5-3 and the Saints who are 6-3.
These games are so important because it is clear that the Bears will not be winning the division this year, so their only way into the playoffs is going to be via the wild card.
They have the tiebreaker against Tampa and Atlanta, and have lost to New Orleans and the 6-2 Detroit Lions. They face the Lions next week with Detroit coming off a bye and having a two-game lead on them with a loss tonight.
If they lose against the Eagles and the Lions, you can say bye-bye to the playoffs this year.
Perhaps the toughest challenge the Bears face Monday is Eagle's running back LeSean McCoy. He's averaging 5.6 yards a carry and 108 yards a game. The Eagles are on pace to break the 1963 Cleveland Browns' NFL record of 5.74 yards per carry.
What makes that even scarier is that the Bears have allowed 5.2 yards per carry so far this year, which is second worst in the NFL. So even if they can stop Michael Vick like they have in the past, that might not be enough to win this time.
The Bears also have a back having a career year in Matt Forte, who's averaging 5.4 yards a carry. Where the Bears will be in trouble is if Philadelphia concentrates on stopping him and decides to let the Bears' passing game beat them.
Philadelphia has an excellent pass rush led by Jason Babin who has nine sacks. If Bears quarterback Jay Cutler doesn't have time to find his receivers, it could be a long night for Chicago, because the Eagles have the best defensive backfield in football.
With Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie back there, it's hard to see the Bears' lackluster group of receivers finding many openings.
On offense, in addition to McCoy, Michael Vick has a couple of fliers in Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson at the receiver position.
The Eagles could score, and score a lot against the Bears Monday night.
The key to the Bears winning is containing Vick and forcing him into some turnovers, which he has been prone to do in the past against Chicago. A big Devin Hester run-back or two would also help the cause if the Bears are going to pull off an upset and save the season.
Falling behind early will not do the Bears any favors either. They don't want to be behind entering the fourth quarter, where Jay Cutler has a 57.3 passer rating, putting him 34th in the league among players who have thrown at least 25 passes.
He's only thrown six interceptions this year, but four of them have come in the fourth quarter, so a late Chicago rally is unlikely.
Last Monday was Halloween, but this Monday night in Philadelphia could turn out to be a house of horrors for the Bears if they don't play their "A" game.