A pair of NFC teams that have failed to play up to preseason expectations will get together on Sunday when the Chicago Bears take on the Philadelphia Eagles. These two teams last met in the NFC Wild Card Game and seemingly little has gone right for either since then.
The Bears' (3-4) woes from last season continued last week against the Chargers. The offense struggled to score, reaching the end zone only once. Just as in their playoff meeting with the Eagles last season, the Bears missed what would have been the game-winning field goal on the final play of the game.
The Eagles (4-4) ended their run of three straight road games on a positive note last Sunday, beating the Bills after losing at Minnesota and at Dallas. Philadelphia grabbed the lead by scoring a touchdown in the final minute of the first half. The Eagles then scored the game-clinching touchdown in the first minute of the second half.
Chicago leads the all-time series, 30-15-1. For games in Philadelphia, the Eagles hold an advantage of 13-8-1. The Eagles have won the last four meetings.
Chicago at Philadelphia
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 3 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Eagles -4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Will the Eagles avoid falling behind early in the game?
Philadelphia is not well suited for second-half rallies. In the five games in which the Eagles have trailed after the first quarter this season, they have lost three of those. When trailing at halftime, they have lost four of five. They have averaged just 218.8 passing yards per game, ranking 21st in the NFL, so their offense is not built for quick comebacks. They have yet to go on a drive in the fourth quarter that resulted in taking the lead.
As a defensive-oriented team, Chicago has experienced success when grabbing the lead before the second half. The Bears have been ahead at the end of the first quarter in three games, winning two of those. They have been ahead at halftime four times and won three of those. They have allowed an average of only 230.6 passing yards per game, tenth fewest in the NFL.
2. Are Carson Wentz and the rest of the Eagles prepared to diversify their attack against the Bears defense?
The gusty conditions last Sunday in Buffalo dictated a gameplan that relied heavily on the running game for the Eagles. The forecast for Sunday in Philadelphia calls for winds in the 10 mph range. That poses much less of a challenge than the wind in the mid-20s in Buffalo.
How unusual was Philadelphia’s dependence on the ground attack last week? The Eagles rushed the ball 41 times. That is the highest number since their 42 attempts in Week 4 of the 2017 season on the road in a win over the Chargers. They had their first rushing total over 200 yards since Week 11 of that season during a victory in Dallas. Actually, they gained 218 yards on the ground, their highest total since Week 13 of 2014, when they piled up 256 in Dallas.
3. Could removing Mitchell Trubisky and inserting Chase Daniel spark the Bears offense?
Chase Daniel has played in two games this season. He substituted for Trubisky in Week 4 in a victory at home over Minnesota. He started against the Raiders in the next game in London. In both games, he completed 22 of his 30 passing attempts. Against the Vikings, he compiled only 195 yards and a touchdown while being sacked once. In London, he threw touchdowns and two interceptions. More disturbingly, the Raiders sacked him four times for a total of 37 yards lost.
Mitchell Trubisky has started and completed five games this season. In those games, he has averaged 216.6 passing yards and one passing touchdown per game. When Trubisky has thrown 31 or fewer times in a game, the Bears have won. When his number of passes has been 35 or more, they have lost. So is less Trubisky involvement a pathway to victory?
The Bears have struggled to protect the quarterbacks, regardless of who was taking snaps from center. As previously noted, the Raiders terrorized Daniel. In the three victorious starts for Trubisky, opponents sacked him an average of once per game. In the three defeats for Trubisky, he was tackled for a loss 3.67 times on average per game. Clearly, the offensive line shares some of the blame for the quarterbacks' difficulties.
The chances of the Bears repeating as NFC North champions appear remote. They trail Green Bay by four games. They have already lost their first meeting with the Packers. They need to start an extensive winning streak just to remain in contention for a wild card berth.
The Eagles' postseason prospects seem much brighter. They trail Dallas by only half a game. They need to keep winning to remain on the heels of the Cowboys with the chance to overtake them in the latter half of the season. They need to win this game to improve their meager 2-4 conference record. That record could serve as a tiebreaker for determining if the Eagles can grab a wild card spot in case Philadelphia fails to win the NFC East.
Prediction: Eagles 20, Bears 10
— Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to AthlonSports.com, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur and read his viewpoints at gridironconnoisseur.wordpress.com and at gridiron-connoisseur.blogspot.com.