As I was finishing this post, Pro Football Talk reported that Lance Briggs will make his return tonight. Briggs hasn’t played since he was injured in the Washington game in Week 7, and the defense took a nosedive from mediocre to terrible in his absence. Obviously the return of one player won’t vault the Bears defense into the upper echelon, but considering how well the offense has been playing, the defense doesn’t have to be anything more than somewhat competent. I’m excited to see what Lance can do, and I hope he’s fully healthy and ready to go.
The Cowboys won today, so the Eagles have only playoff seeding on the line against the Bears; their playoff hopes will come down to next week’s finale against the Cowboys. The importance of this game for Chicago’s playoff chances is somewhat obvious. (Unless, of course, Detroit loses and Green Bay wins, in which case it becomes less important. It would still have seeding implications, though.) So here are three things that I think could be key to tonight’s outcome.
- Take the Over: Too often we see two teams with good offenses and assume we’re in for a shootout. But tonight just seems like the perfect storm of high-powered offense and powerless defense. I’ve seen the over/under around 56 all week; I would absolutely take the over. I don’t envision too many empty possessions tonight, for either side. (Of course it will finish 6-3 now.)
- Dallas Game Redux: One of my keys to the Dallas game from a few weeks ago involved which defense could get off the field, via turnover or stop. My thinking then was that because both offenses were so potent, if one defense could spot their team’s offense a few extra possessions that team would be in very good shape. There were actually no turnovers in that game, but the Bears forced a few punts while the Cowboys forced none. I think tonight’s game could unfold similarly, and if the Bears can replicate their Dallas approach, I think they could be in line for the victory.
- Shaking the Rust: Jay Cutler came out firing against the Browns, but threw an interception to end his first drive. It took him awhile to recover from that, throwing a pick-six in the process; he recovered in the fourth quarter to lead the Bears offense to 21 unanswered points. That was against Jason Campbell and the Browns, though. This Eagles team won’t be hanging around, waiting for the Bears to wake up; their offense is too explosive and their quarterback is capable of hitting an open receiver on a 15-yard in route. The Bears will have to be ready from the opening kick, and they probably can’t afford another slow start from Cutler.
These teams are both extremely high-variance; they’ve looked unbeatable at times, but both have lost at Minnesota within the last three weeks. That makes a prediction difficult. But since mostly-blind prognostication is apparently a part of the job, I’ll go with a 34-28 Bears win. I think there are a couple of regressions in play: Nick Foles has been sliding back to more reasonable territory following his torrid start, and the Bears defense has looked a bit better. The return of Briggs can only help to further solidify things on that side of the ball. It should be an entertaining game, and I think NBC will be rewarded for their flex decision.
Time to Bear Down.