The stakes aren't as high as last season's Wild Card playoff showdown, but both the Eagles and the Bears will look at Sunday's battle at Lincoln Financial Field as a "get right game" to kick off the second half of the regular season.
Nearly 10 months ago, a tipped field goal attempt that doinked off of both the upright and the crossbar before falling to the ground ended what was one of the amazing turnaround stories of the 2018 season. First-year head coach Matt Nagy inherited a 5-11 squad and the Bears won the NFC North with a 12-4 record, the best mark of the decade.
Through the first seven games of 2019, the Bears are just 3-4 in a hotly competitive NFC North after a heartbreaking 17-16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on, of all things, a missed field goal to end the game. Certainly, the change from a first-place schedule to a first-place one has impacted the team, but there are other concerns.
The Bears had the No. 1-ranked scoring defense in the league in 2018 under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who was hired by the Denver Broncos to be their new head coach. Chuck Pagano, a well-respected, veteran coach, took over the reins of the defense.
The Bears did not allow an opponent to score more than 15 points in the first four games, but allowed 60 total points in consecutive losses to the Raiders and Saints before getting back on track against the Chargers. The personnel is largely the same except for defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who went on injured reserve with an elbow injury. Hick was a Pro Bowl selection last year with 7.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
Linebacker Khalil Mack is one of the best players in the NFL, regardless of position. He earned a 99 rating from Madden, one of only four to receive that distinction. One of the heavyweight battles to watch is between Mack and All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson, who got the upper hand of the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year back in the Wild Card matchup. Although, with Jason Peters out, Mack could move over the line up over rookie tackle Andre Dillard.
Chicago has a pair of disruptive middle linebackers in Roquan Smith, the team's leading tackler in 2018, and Danny Trevathan, who leads the team in stops this season. On the back end, the Bears signed free agent safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to round out a veteran secondary featuring All-Pro safety Eddie Jackson.
Offensively, the Bears capitalized on the mistakes forced by the defense last year. Chicago created a league-best 36 takeaways in 2018 and the offense was ninth in scoring. The Bears don't generate turnovers at the same rate this season (11 through seven games, tied for 13th in the NFL) and the offense hasn't progressed with third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Through Week 7, Trubisky averaged just 5.6 yards per pass attempt. He missed one game with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, but showed in a Week 3 win over Washington how he can still be efficient completing 80.6 percent of his passes for 231 yards with three touchdowns against an interception for a 116.5 rating. Trubisky was 23-of-35 for 253 yards with no touchdowns and an interception against Los Angeles last week.
Rookie David Montgomery took over at running back after Jordan Howard was traded to the Eagles, but is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. Although, Montgomery is coming off what was clearly his best game, a 135-yard outing last Sunday. The Bears have a weapon in space in running back Tarik Cohen, who is second on the team in receptions. Listed at 5-6, 191 pounds, Cohen hasn't been able to make much of an impact in the run game (2.3 yards per carry).
Trubisky's top pass catcher is wide receiver Allen Robinson. The 6-2, 220-pound Robinson averages 9.4 targets per game, the eighth-highest rate in the league. Robinson posted 10 catches for 143 yards, a Bears playoff record, and a touchdown in the Wild Card game against the Eagles.
The Bears pose a slew of challenges as they look to exact revenge for the way their 2018 campaign ended. The Eagles are also much different team on both sides of the ball, as quarterback Carson Wentz wasn't on the field in January. Plus, this one is in Philadelphia as both teams try to right the ship after uneven starts in 2019.
LB Nigel Bradham: Out with an ankle injury. Rookie T.J. Edwards started in Bradham's place last week in Buffalo.
G Brandon Brooks: Returned to practice on Friday after missing Thursday due to an illness. Good to go for Sunday.
DE Vinny Curry: Did not participate in practice on Friday for personal reasons. Good to go for Sunday.
WR DeSean Jackson: Told reporters on Friday that the plan is to play, but nothing definite. Will be a game-time decision. Listed as questionable. Mack Hollins has started in Jackson's place.
DT Tim Jernigan: Limited in practice all week. Also questionable and a game-time decision. Bruce Hector started last week, but was sent to the practice squad.
CB Avonte Maddox: Will return to the lineup Sunday as the nickel cornerback. Missed four games with a concussion and a neck injury.
T Jason Peters: Will miss Sunday's game with a knee injury. Rookie Andre Dillard starts in place of Peters.
RB Miles Sanders: Left last week's game with a shoulder injury, but good to go for Sunday.
S Andrew Sendejo: Limited Thursday and Friday with a groin injury. Questionable for Sunday. Rudy Ford is listed as the fourth safety, but Maddox has safety experience as well.
RB Darren Sproles: Ready to return from a quadriceps injury that sidelined him for the past three games.
DE Josh Sweat: Practiced fully all week despite an ankle injury. Good to go for Sunday.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
LB KHALIL MACK
A three-time first-team All-Pro selection and a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker Khalil Mack is one of the preeminent game wreckers in the league today. The Bears sent the Oakland Raiders a bounty of draft picks, including two first-round choices, in exchange for Mack and some picks in return last September. The move paid off for the Bears.
Mack registered his fourth straight season with double-digit sacks and Chicago won the NFC North with a 12-4 record, the team's best mark since the 2006 season when the Bears won the NFC title. The Bears boasted the league's best scoring defense last season. Mack will line up predominately against Eagles All-Pro tackle Lane Johnson, who got the better of Mack in the playoff meeting between these two squads back in January. However, as noted above, the Eagles are preparing for the Bears to move Mack over to rookie left tackle Andre Dillard's side.
CB JALEN MILLS
Cornerback Jalen Mills was sidelined by injury when these two teams met in the playoffs. Wide receiver Allen Robinson was quarterback Mitchell Trubisky's go-to target to the tune of 10 catches on 13 targets for 143 yards and a touchdown. Robinson's 6-2, 220-pound frame allows him to be a security blanket for the quarterback, but he has the athleticism to create big plays.
The Eagles' secondary will need to be wary of play-action and double moves to try and free up Robinson, who set up a scoring drive with a 45-yard reception off of a pump-fake from Trubisky. Even when Trubisky was sidelined earlier this season with a shoulder injury, the Bears made sure to create ways to feed Robinson. It's one thing to have Robinson move the chains and force the Bears to play the long game when it comes to scoring, but the Eagles can't afford to allow explosive plays.
BY THE NUMBERS
.759: The Eagles' home winning percentage is second in the league since 2016 behind only New England.
3-0: Head coach Doug Pederson is 3-0 in games before the bye week.
11 for 11: Quarterback Carson Wentz has thrown a touchdown pass in 11 consecutive games, tied with Seattle's Russell Wilson for the longest active streak in the NFL.
49.1: The Eagles own the second-best third-down offense in the NFL (49.1%), the team's best mark through eight games since 1994.
3,813: Running back Jordan Howard is second in the NFL in rushing yards since 2016.
6.7: Running back Miles Sanders leads all NFL running backs in scrimmage yards per touch (min. 80 touches) this season.
3: The Eagles are one of only three teams with multiple running backs who have gained at least 500 scrimmage yards each this season.
85: The Eagles are tied for fifth in the NFL in generating total pressures on the quarterback.
8 and 8: The Eagles one of only four NFL teams to have generated at least eight interceptions and eight forced fumbles.
65.4: The Eagles are sixth in the NFL and third in the NFC in red zone touchdown efficiency, with success on 17 of 26 red zone opportunities (65.4%) this year.
7: Bears wide receiver/kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown in Week 7 and now has seven
17: The Bears have held the opponent out of the end zone on 17 straight opening drives dating back to last season.
54.5: Bears linebacker Khalil Mack has 54.5 sacks since the start of the 2015 season, third most in the NFL. He has the second-most sacks in the second half of games and the most in the third quarter of games in that timeframe.
135: Bears rookie running back David Montgomery notched the first 100-yard rushing performance of his career last week against the Chargers.
143: Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson's 143 yards in last year's Wild Card loss to the Eagles set a franchise playoff record.
303: Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky's 303 passing yards in last year's Wild Card matchup was also a franchise playoff record.
Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com: Eagles 31, Bears 14
"Running behind the hosses on the right side of their offensive line, Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks, the Eagles flexed their muscles like it was 2017, finishing with 218 rushing yards, their highest total output of the Doug Pederson era," Rosenthal wrote. "That could be key against a Bears front that isn't as dominant as it once was."
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Eagles 27, Bears 20
"It won't take a double doink this time around," he wrote.
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Eagles 24, Bears 23
"If the rematch of last year's playoff game comes down to a last-second field goal, the entire city of Chicago may have a collective heart attack," Smith wrote. "I see the Bears losing this and falling deeper into last place in the NFC North."
Pro Football Focus: Seven of the eight analysts pick the Eagles.
Tim McManus, ESPN: Eagles 26, Bears 17
Jeff Dickerson, ESPN: Eagles 17, Bears 15
The MMQB: All six analysts pick the Eagles.
GET TO KNOW THE OPPONENT
- Head coach Matt Nagy hopes that the Bears will follow the Washington Nationals' blueprint.
- The Bears' offensive line is starting to find its groove.
- Did the Bears add a new wrinkle to the offense last week?
- Mitchell Trubisky vows to show more of his personality.
- Bears defensive players recall their first sack.