CHICAGO -- It is a beautiful day here with bright sunshine and light winds. The temperatures are in the 40s, and by the time the second half rolls around it will be a cold, football-perfect atmosphere at Soldier Field. This is a great matchup, a pair of 7-3 teams that have major playoff intentions. How do the Eagles beat the Bears? Here are some Spadaro Rules to follow today ...
GET PRESSURE WITH FOUR-MAN FRONT
Essential. Critical. Maybe the key to the game. The Eagles can't afford to send an array of blitz packages at quarterback Jay Cutler, not with Asante Samuel out of the game and the Eagles playing with a very young secondary. The Eagles have some good matchups here. Rookie Brandon Graham, who should play a lot even if Juqua Parker suits up -- that will be decided 90 minutes prior to the game -- goes against rookie J'Marcus Webb. Webb is a massive, 6-foot-8 kid, but he is not the experienced player Graham has been seeing every week.
Trent Cole has a huge advantage in a one-on-one battle against Bears left tackle Frank Omiyale, a journeyman in his sixth NFL season. Rest assured that the Bears won't let Cole go at Omiyale alone, so the Eagles have to make the Bears pay for all of the attention they give Cole.
Cutler is an erratic quarterback if he is pressured, if he is moved off of his spot, if he has to rush his throws. If Cutler has time to set up and throw, he can be deadly. Allow him to get in a rhythm and Cutler is very effective.
Blitzing could be tough to execute against a team that uses the screen so effectively. Matt Forte is a gigantic part of the Bears offense running the ball and in the passing game. So it's all about the four-man rush. If the Eagles can get some pressure that way, the back seven can help compensate for Samuel's loss.
DON'T LET DEVIN HESTER TOUCH THE BALL ON SPECIAL TEAMS
If the Eagles mess with the dynamic Devin Hester, they are taking a large risk. A foolish risk. Sav Rocca has good directional skills in the punt game, so there should be no question what the strategy will be. Rocca is a very important figure in this game with his punting, as is David Akers on kickoffs.
Special teams have been a source of ups and downs this season. The Eagles need to win the battle today. Measure the hidden yardage today and the winner wins this ballgame.
**LIMIT TIGHT END GREG OLSEN
Why do I have this feeling that the Bears are going to move Olsen all over the formation and make him the primary pass catcher today? The Eagles have to adjust to Olsen and where he lines up. You know the team's history against tight ends. For whatever reason, tight ends have had a lot of success against the Eagles over the years.
What does Sean McDermott do, then? He may have to play an extra safety. He may rely on linebacker Moise Fokou. Could be a combination of things. But the Eagles can't let Olsen be the safety net for Cutler. This goes back to the four-man pass rush. If the Eagles can get pressure from four guys, they can force the Bears to use Olsen as a blocker.
HAVE SUCCESS ON FIRST AND SECOND DOWNS
The nightmare of today would be a lot of third-and-long situations for Michael Vick and the offense. That is not the way to beat such a sure-tackling defense. The Bears are just really good on defense. They aren't fancy. They won't do a lot of fancy things today. They will apply pressure with Julius Peppers and their front four, and they will then have the linebackers flow to the ball and make tackles.
It wouldn't be a terrible idea to come out and run the football early and establish the line of scrimmage and take some of the pressure away from Vick and the passing game. The Bears play zone, they keep everything in front of them and they tackle great. So the Eagles have to be patient and pick up handfuls of yards to set up third-and-short opportunities.
If the Eagles can pound the rock just a little bit, they will have some chances for big plays down the field to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
**BALL SECURITY WINS ... OR LOSES ... THIS GAME
We know how great Vick has been at protecting the football. Today is his biggest challenge. The Bears are fast and they are ball hawks. They are so sound and stingy and they are playing with a very high level of confidence.
The turnover battle is huge. The Eagles lead the league in turnover ratio and they will have to win that stat today to win the game. It isn't going to be an artistic game. It is going to be blood-and-guts football at Soldier Field. The team that makes the fewest mistakes with the football should take the game on the scoreboard.