A year ago, a rookie quarterback went up against a Super Bowl contender. The rookie's team was 4-4 with some close losses. They played teams tough but weren't good enough to win those games. On that fateful November day, Carson Wentz and the Eagles upset the Atlanta Falcons, 24-15. The tables are turned this year. The 9-1 Eagles host the 3-7 Bears and rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky on Sunday.
Prior to this week, my impression of the Bears was that they were pretty bad. Injuries have been a problem for them and they have a rookie quarterback. I was surprised when I did more research on this team. Their record isn't good, but this is an unusual team.
The Bears play almost everyone tough. They were blown out twice and in each of those games they had four turnovers. When they don't turn it over, the Bears either win the game or lose in a one-possession contest. This is a gritty team. It also doesn't matter who they play. The red-hot Saints only beat them 20-12. The equally red-hot Vikings escaped with a 20-17 victory.
Chicago can do more than just challenge good teams. They have three quality wins. The Bears beat Pittsburgh and Carolina, both are likely to be playoff teams. They also beat the Ravens, who have a good shot to be in the postseason. The Bears are not your typical 3-7 team in any way, shape, or form.
I'm not trying to sell you the idea that this is a "trap" game. The Eagles have stayed focused all year and I don't expect that to be different this week. I do think this game will be tougher than some fans and media are expecting. The Bears don't care about the Eagles' record or any Carson Wentz hype. They are going to challenge the Eagles and do everything they can to win. They don't back down to anyone.
One of the things that makes this game fascinating is that the Bears are such a good running team. They are eighth in the league in rushing attempts and fifth in yards. They want to run the ball. The Eagles have the No. 1 run defense in the NFL. Not only do they shut teams down, but teams tend to give up on even trying to run. Can the Eagles pull that off against a Bears team that is dedicated to running the ball?
Chicago isn't your traditional running team. They have a feature back in Jordan Howard, a big guy who has good speed as well. They have a dynamic rookie named Tarik Cohen who is more of a weapon than someone who fits a specific role. He is second on the team in rushing, the leading receiver, and a dangerous return man. You also have to deal with Trubisky's mobility. He is a good athlete and excellent runner, averaging 8 yards a carry this season.
The Eagles will need to be disciplined. It is good that they have already played teams like the Chiefs and the Panthers. That will help them with defending the Bears. You can't just chase the ball. Defenders must be in the right spots and the right gaps. Angles and leverage are critical when dealing with a team like Chicago. Cohen can be especially dangerous in space and the Bears get him the ball in a number of creative ways.
Trubisky is getting better as the season goes along. He has thrown 30 or more passes each of the last three games. The Bears are letting him do more and more. He led a drive to tie the game in the fourth quarter and then had another drive at the end of the game to send it to overtime, but the makeable field goal went wide right.
There have been a lot of comparisons this week between Trubisky and Wentz. Both were No. 2 overall picks. They are both good athletes and talented passers. The Bears are hoping that Trubisky can turn into the kind of player who Wentz has become.
I'm interested to see how the Eagles attack the Bears. The Eagles have run the ball a lot in the past couple of weeks. Chicago has done a pretty good job against the run this year. They are going to be missing their most athletic edge rusher in Leonard Floyd and their top pass rusher, Akiem Hicks, is also banged up. The Eagles might try to spread the Bears out and throw the ball on them.
You know that would make Alshon Jeffery happy. He's played his best football in the past two games and would love to have a big day against his former team.
The Bears have only scored points on their opening possession once this year. The Eagles are very good at scoring early. If that trend continues, the Eagles will get a lead and immediately put some pressure on Chicago.
The Eagles lead the NFL in scoring at 32 points per game. The Bears are tough to score on. They're 15th in points allowed, but there are four return touchdowns included in that. The Bears are seventh in red zone defense so getting the ball into the end zone won't be easy.
There was some good news this week on the injury front. Jake Elliott will return to the field after suffering a concussion last week in Dallas. Elliott is a weapon on kickoffs and field goals. As fun as it was to watch Kamu Grugier-Hill kick off, the Eagles are glad to have Elliott back.
Chicago cut its kicker after his late-game miss last week and signed Cairo Santos to handle that role. That's something to keep in mind if this is a close game and field goals become critical. The Eagles should have a distinct advantage.
The Eagles are going for their ninth straight win and this is a game where they should come out on top. Trubisky and the Bears want to pull off the huge upset and know they must protect the ball, while also come up with some big plays. The Eagles have at least one takeaway in eight straight games and have eight takeaways over the last three games. Combine that with the way the Eagles limit big plays and I just don't see an upset happening at The Linc.