Bears/Eagles NFC Playoffs Preview
We’ve waited a long time for this Bears fans. The Chicago Bears (12-4) finally return to the Playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season ended in misery at Soldier Field in the NFC Championship game to the hated rivals from up north. Now the Bears take on the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) on Sunday at 3:40 pm central time in the NFC Wild Card Round Playoffs.
First of all, I want to congratulate this 2018 Bears squad for a great season. Who would have guessed last year’s 5-11 team would improve by seven victories to finish this year as NFC North Champs with a 12-4 record. It’s truly exciting.
Secondly, the “Dutch Lion” wants to express my confidence in this team. This season is not over yet. It might not be for weeks. I’m very confident in this week’s matchup, despite the fact the Eagles are the Super Bowl Champions and are a hot team as well. Plus, I must admit after reading much about Philadelphia this week, I’m starting to worry more about this game.
Next, I want to bring up a historic game in this series. You know what I’m thinking…… the Fog Bowl! Could we see Fog Bowl II on Sunday at Soldier Field? Who knows!?! Seriously, wouldn’t that be extremely bizarre if thirty years later the same strange eerie clouds formed over the Soldier Field playing surface to the point that fans and cameras can’t see the game……. again?
Finally, let’s bring in our good friend Troy Aikman and analyze this ballgame using his Aikman Efficiency Ratings (AER).
Aikman Efficiency Ratings (AER)
- Philadelphia (9-7) : 14th overall (153.0), 18th offense (83.6), 11th defense (69.4)
- Chicago (12-4) : 1st overall (166.7), 13th offense (85.5), 1st defense (81.2)
These are Troy’s final Efficiency Ratings of the 2018 season. The Bears finished 1st in the NFL with the top rated defense and the 13th rated offense. Very, very impressive. Philadelphia finished near the middle of the league at 14th overall, with the 18th rated offense and the 11th best defense.
Breaking down this matchup, we have two very hot teams. Chicago started 3-3 after the back-to-back losses to New England and Miami. Since then the Bears have won 9 of 10 games, the only loss being the one at the New York Giants when QB #10 Mitch Trubisky was out injured and #4 Chase Daniel had to play the entire game. Philadelphia started 4-6 and have now won 5 of 6 games entering the Playoffs.
Chicago is 7-1 at home with their only loss at Soldier Field to the New England Patriots by 7 points, 38-31. Philadelphia is 3-4 on the road with victories at the N.Y. Giants 34-13, at the L.A. Rams 30-23, and at Washington 24-0 (last week). They lost at Tampa Bay 27-21, at Tennessee 26-23 in OT, at New Orleans 48-7, and at Dallas 29-23 in OT. The Eagles also beat Jacksonville 24-18 at a neutral site game at London.
Overall for the season, Philadelphia scored 367 points (22.9 ppg) and allowed 348 points (21.8 ppg) (+19). Chicago scored 421 points (26.3 ppg) and allowed a league low 283 (17.7 ppg) (+138). Only the Saints, Rams, and Chiefs had a better point differential. I believe this to be a key stat.
The Eagles have been playing better with QB #4 Nick Foles at the reigns of their offense, even though his numbers aren’t that big (only 7 TD’s and 4 INT’s in 5 games). There’s just something about Nick. He gets the ball to their playmakers WR #17 Alshon Jeffery, #19 Golden Tate, #13 Nelson Agholor, and TE #86 Zach Ertz. Ertz leads Philly with 116 catches on the year for 1163 receiving yards and 8 TD’s. The Eagles offense is decent. Their defense is solid. The Eagles have 44 sacks and 10 interceptions on the year. DT #91 Fletcher Cox (10.5 sacks) plugs the middle. The pass rushers are DE’s #77 Michael Bennett (9 sacks), Kyle’s brother #56 Chris Long (6.5 sacks), #55 Brandon Graham (4 sacks) and #96 Derek Barnett (2.5 sacks). LB #53 Nigel Bradham is tied for the team lead in tackles with 97. Watch out for LB #47 Nate Gerry. He had an interception last week at Washington. S #27 Malcolm Jenkins tied Bradham with 97 TKL’s and 1 INT. The other starting safety is former Bears S #24 Corey Graham, who is in his 12th season! Remember this guy? He played in Chicago at the start of his career from 2007 through 2011. Philly has injuries in their secondary. Both starting CB’s #21 Ronald Darby and #31 Jalen Mills are on Injured Reserve. One of the backups, #22 Sidney Jones is also questionable. Look for his status on Sunday morning.
Expect Bears HC Matt Nagy to attack Philadelphia’s young CB’s and S’s with the passing game while mixing in the running game trying to get their young defenders to bite on handoffs to RB #24 Jordan Howard. Also expect Nagy to utilize RB #29 Tarik Cohen as much as he has all season in a variety of ways. I think we’ll see Cohen going deeper downfield against those young DB’s.
- Will K #1 Cody Parkey make his kicks, or will he hit the uprights at windy Soldier Field? Will HC Nagy go for two instead of trusting in Parkey?
- Will Trubisky be so amped up that he fires passes over the heads of Bears receivers? Will he scramble effectively without putting himself in harm’s way and possibly re-injuring that throwing shoulder?
- Will the OL open up some holes and get a push against a solid Eagles DL? Will Jordan Howard be able to run effectively?
- Will the Bears WR corps be able to play, first of all, given that three members are all coming off of injuries last week? Secondly, whoever does play, will they be able to get open and get targeted by Trubisky? I actually think there’s a chance WR #11 Kevin White and/or WR #83 Javon Wims makes a big play or two in this game given the injuries to WR #17 Anthony Miller (shoulder), WR #18 Taylor Gabriel (ribs), and WR #12 Allen Robinson (ribs).
- Will the Bears be able to cover a varied bunch of Eagles weapons including former Bear Alshon Jeffery, Golden Tate, and TE Zach Ertz? What if Bears S #39 Eddie Jackson can’t play because of his ankle?
- Will people be able to see the action on Soldier Field? Will we have “Fog Bowl II”?
NFC Wild Card Prediction:
According to Thursday’s Chicago Tribune, the Bears are favored by 6 points. Despite the question marks above, I feel confident in this Bears team taking down the defending Super Bowl Champions. The home field advantage is huge in the Playoffs. This Bears team, especially Vic Fangio’s defense, is on a mission. This year, the Bears are simply a better team.
Chicago Bears 27, Philadelphia Eagles 17
No matter what happens, enjoy this Bears fans! A 12-4 season followed by a home playoff game at Soldier Field. Cherish it! Playoff victories don’t happen very often. Count on your hand how many NFC Playoff wins we’ve witnessed since Super Bowl XX in 1985/’86.
- 1988 Divisional “Fog Bowl” vs Philadelphia 20-12
- 1990 Wild Card vs New Orleans 16-6
- 1994 Wild Card at Minnesota 35-18
- 2006 Divisional vs Seattle 27-24 (OT)
- 2006 NFC Championship vs New Orleans 39-14
- 2010 Divisional vs Seattle 35-24
Six NFC Playoff wins. That’s it. 6 Playoff victories since the magical Super Bowl XX domination over New England 46-10. 6 Playoff wins in 33 years. That’s one for every five and a half years.
The Chicago Bears will win on Sunday. Savor it.