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Spadaro: 6 storylines to follow vs. Bears

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

Perhaps it is oversimplifying things – in a very complex way, mind you – to say that Chicago quarterback Justin Fields is as close to a one-man offensive show as you'll find in the NFL. But a close look at the numbers suggests that maybe isn't so farfetched in what is the ultimate team sport, so as we look at some storylines for Sunday's game against the Bears, let's start there, at the quarterback position ...

1. Justin Fields does it all for Chicago

The second-year quarterback is the man for the Bears, the player around whom Chicago is building. The results haven't been immediately evident in the Bears' won-loss record – Chicago is 3-10, with six straight defeats – but the team has played hard and has had six one-possession losses this season. And Fields has taken steps toward being the Franchise Quarterback the Bears hope he will become.

The numbers are strong in his favor: Fields leads Chicago in rushing yards (905), touchdowns scored (8), first downs gained (57), average per rush (7.07), and rushing attempts (128). He has thrown 14 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions, completing 62 percent of his passes. He is asked to do it all and he does it all.

How do the Eagles handle Fields?

"He's a dynamic player who can make plays with his arm and his feet. He has a really, really strong arm, but also a guy who is very dynamic in the run game in terms of whether it's schemed up by them or if it's kind of off script and him just making plays," linebacker T.J. Edwards said. "It is really going to be each guy doing his job to make sure that we can stop this guy because this is a really talented offense we're playing."

2. Miles Sanders is having a superior season, so embrace it

All year he has talked about "focus" and "being where my feet are," and that approach has been a huge benefit for running back Miles Sanders in 2022. He has rushed for 1,068 yards (fifth-most in the NFL), has scored 11 touchdowns (third-best in the league), and has not put the football on the ground.

Sanders, who is the first Eagle since LeSean McCoy in 2011 to have 1,000-plus rushing yards and 10-plus touchdowns, certainly deserves consideration for the Pro Bowl, so we will see how that goes down the line. Sanders is keeping his eyes on what is right in front of him.

"I am loving every bit of this season and I think everybody in the locker room would say the same thing," he said. "When you're winning and you have a group like this, you know it's special. I think that we have great pieces and we understand what we're trying to accomplish. My goal is to stay focused and stay healthy and I will be in position to help this team win games. That's all I care about – winning games."

Sanders could have some opportunities on Sunday at Chicago – the Bears rank 27th in the NFL in run defense, allowing 146 yards per game. The Eagles have averaged 162 yards per game on the ground offensively, second in the NFL.

3. Then again, maybe the passing game will have some chances, too

Chicago is going through a rebuild, and one area where they have struggled this season is in getting to the quarterback. The Bears have registered only 16 quarterback sacks, lowest in the NFL. Things can change in a hurry as the Eagles have learned (last year, the Eagles had 29 quarterback sacks, 31st in the league, and now they lead the NFL with 49 of them), but they aren't going to change for Sunday's game.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts could have some time to throw the football, if that's the route the Eagles choose to take offensively.

4. It seems like a favorable matchup for the Eagles on paper, but who knows?

While Chicago has been a run-based offense (leading the NFL in yards per game on the ground), the Bears' passing attack is actually, statistically anyway, the worst in the NFL. Chicago averages just 141 passing yards per game, while the Eagles rank first in the NFL in pass defense. Fields has been sacked 40 times, the third-most in the NFL. Leading receiver Darnell Mooney is out for the season with an injury and Chase Claypool, acquired in a midseason trade with Pittsburgh, has only 12 receptions for 111 yards and zero touchdowns in five games with the Bears. Plus, he is out for Sunday's game with a knee injury.

"I see a big, strong quarterback. He's a lot bigger than I thought," cornerback Darius Slay said of Fields on Friday. "He's got a huge arm. He can throw it. You let your guard down in this league and you get beat. We ain't letting our guards down. Every player in this league is a great player."

5. A spotlight for Eagles QB Jalen Hurts

Jalen Hurts remains the center of attention for the national media, and for good reason. Some numbers to validate what kind of season he's having ...

• Hurts leads the NFL with a 108.4 passer rating

• His 7.3 touchdown-to-interception ratio also leads the league

• Hurts has 32 combined touchdowns, which ranks second in the NFL behind Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes

• His 8.1-yard-per-pass-attempt average ranks third in the NFL

The Eagles are averaging 29.7 points per game, best in the league, and with 50 total touchdowns scored are only four away from the franchise high of 54, set in 2014.

6. Jason Kelce's ironman streak is worth noting

Center Jason Kelce is an all-time Eagle for a variety of reasons, including his durability and toughness. With Sunday's start, Kelce passes former Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards (135, 1977-85) for the 2nd-most consecutive games started in Eagles history, trailing only Jon Runyan (144, 2000-08). It is the longest active streak among NFL centers. There is some luck involved as far as staying healthy, but it is certainly a tribute to Kelce and to the players around him the kind of numbers he has put up in what should be, someday, a Pro Football Hall of Fame career.

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