BEARS vs. EAGLES: NFC Wild Card Game #2 - January 6, 2019

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BEARS vs. EAGLES: NFC Wild Card Game #2 – January 6, 2019

Chicago Bears

The Philadelphia Eagles thrashed the Chicago Bears by a final score of 31-3 on November 26, 2017.

Brett did an Enhanced Box Score that night, and all we could do was laugh. Two days later, after the tears (of laughter?) subsided, we discussed how the Bears could adopt the Eagles’ blueprint, as they looked to the future.

Obviously, we were among the more optimistic fans – dreaming on an Eagles-like rise for the 2018 Bears – but I don’t think we thought it would go this well, this soon. But whaddaya know? Dreams come true.

THIS SUNDAY – It’s the Bears and Eagles in a game that features two teams who should be viewed as the prototype on how to elevate a young roster, apparently lacking direction while playing for a previous regime.

Doug Pederson’s Eagles created the blueprint in 2017, and his former co-worker, Matt Nagy, picked it up and applied it to the 2018 Bears. There are so many story lines, we can hardly contain ourselves … and we still have until 3:40 p.m. CT to cover them all.

Let’s get it on, already!

Never Tell Me The Odds:”

The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas lists the Bears as 6.5-point favorites with an over/under set at 41.5. The 6-point spread is the largest of the four games on Wild-Card Weekend and the 41.5-point total is the lowest of the four games.

Series History:

The Bears lead the all-time series 29-12-1, with the Eagles winning the most recent regular-season game in a lopsided affair at Lincoln Financial Field.

Game Time, Broadcast Info, Officiating Crew:

Location: Soldier Field

Broadcast Info: Sunday, January 6 at 3:40 CT on NBC (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya), WBBM-AM 780 and WCFS-FM 105.9 (Jeff Joniak, Tom Thayer, Mark Grote), Westwood Radio (Kevin Harlan, James Lofton, Laura Okmin)

Officials: Tony Corrente (referee), Ramon George (umpire), Jerod Phillips (down judge), Kent Payne (line judge), Mike Weatherford (field judge), Allen Baynes (side judge), Todd Prukop (back judge), John McGrath (replay official), Eugene Cunningham (replay assistant)

Expected Starters and Lineups:

Bears Offense Expected Starters:

  • QB Mitch Trubisky
  • RB Jordan Howard
  • RB Tarik Cohen
  • WR Allen Robinson II
  • WR Taylor Gabriel
  • TE Trey Burton
  • LT Charles Leno Jr.
  • LG James Daniels
  • C Cody Whitehair
  • RG Kyle Long
  • RT Bobby Massie

Bears Defense Expected Starters:

  • DT Akiem Hicks
  • NT Eddie Goldman
  • DE Bilal Nichols
  • OLB Khalil Mack
  • ILB Danny Trevathan
  • ILB Roquan Smith
  • OLB Leonard Floyd
  • CB Kyle Fuller
  • CB Prince Amukamara
  • FS Eddie Jackson
  • SS Adrian Amos

Bears Specialists: 

  • Cody Parkey (kicker), Pat O’Donnell (punter, holder), Patrick Scales (long snapper), Anthony Miller (kick returner), Tarik Cohen (punt returner)

Eagles Offense Expected Starters:

  • QB Nick Foles
  • RB Wendell Smallwood
  • WR Golden Tate
  • WR Nelson Agholor
  • WR Alshon Jeffery
  • TE Zach Ertz
  • LT Jason Peters
  • LG Isaac Seumalo
  • C Jason Kelce
  • RG Brandon Brooks
  • RT Lane Johnson

Eagles Defense Expected Starters:

  • DE Brandon Graham
  • DE Michael Bennett
  • DT Timmy Jernigan
  • DT Fletcher Cox
  • OLB Nigel Bradham
  • MLB Jordan Hicks
  • CB Cre’von LeBlanc
  • CB Avonte Maddox
  • CB Rasul Douglas
  • S Malcolm Jenkins
  • S Corey Graham

Eagles Specialists:

  • Jake Elliott (kicker), Cameron Johnston (punter, holder), Rick Lovato (long snapper) Darren Sproles (kick, punt returns)

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Bears – Offense

Mitch Trubisky has been stellar at Soldier Field this season with 19 touchdowns, an average of 246.5 passing yards per game, and a 97.2 passer rating to go along with a 7.4 yards per rush average (and two scores!). Trubisky will face a defense that allowed seven 300+ yard passing games and six contests with at least 2 passing scores. Philly’s defense has allowed huge games to Ryan Fitzpatrick (402 yards, 4 TD), Marcus Mariota (344, 2), and Dak Prescott (455, 3), among others. This could be a coming out party for QB1.

Jordan Howard finished with a flurry. He was named FedEx’s Ground Player of the Week and averaged 4.5 yards per rush in his last five games. Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott each gashed Philadelphia for two 100-yard rushing games, Mark Ingram had one that featured two scores, and Adrian Peterson ran for 98 on 9 carries in Week 13. This is a group that can be run on if Howard gets an opportunity.

Chicago Bears – Defense

Khalil Mack will face his toughest test of the season, no matter where he lines up. Left tackle Jason Peters and right tackle Lane Johnson are Pro Bowlers and are among the best players at their position. Mack is no slouch, but the Eagles limited him to one QB Hit and four tackles on Christmas Day 2017 despite the All-Pro pass-rusher playing all 67 snaps. Unlike the 2017 Raiders, the 2018 Bears are better equipped to deal if Mack is contained. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to it.

Roquan Smith will have an up-hill climb when matched up against tight end Zach Ertz. Smith is the least accomplished of the Bears’ starting defenders, so you can expect the Eagles to scheme matchups that isolate Smith against Ertz. If Smith can hold his own in coverage and when called upon, it will go a long way toward the Bears’ pass defense having a good day.

Philadelphia Eagles – Offense

Nick Foles might be football’s most underrated quarterback. We know what he did to win Super Bowl LII MVP and engineer Philly’s 2018 postseason push, but apparently it’s easy to forget the guy posted a 27-2 TD-INT ratio in 2013 when led the Eagles to an 8-2 record and into the playoffs. Foles has mobility, accuracy, arm strength, and a willingness to let it fly and let playmakers win 50-50 balls. He is not to be overlooked.

Zach Ertz has seen 27 targets the last three weeks from Foles and has been a playmaker all year. He broke Jason Witten’s NFL record for most reception by a tight end in Week 16 and finished with 116 catches, 1,163 yards, and 8 touchdowns – all single-season bests for Ertz. Slowing him down should be a top priority.

Philadelphia Eagles – Defense

Fletcher Cox is the Eagles’ best defensive player. Cox can eliminate the run game by plugging holes and eating space and rush the passer by shooting gaps and applying pressure. Bears interior linemen did wonders against Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh in Week 14 against the Rams and will need to repeat that performance against Cox and the Eagles.

Cre’von LeBlanc revenge game, anyone? LeBlanc was a standout slot corner in Chicago, but didn’t make the cut at the end of the preseason and moved on despite being offered a spot on the practice squad. He isn’t having the best year, but could be extra motivated to stick it to his ex-teammates.

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.