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Philadelphia Eagles vs. Chicago Bears Preview and Prediction

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No matter what drama unfolds on the field, chances are high that this week’s “Monday Night Football” matchup on ESPN will be much more entertaining than the Week 1 double-header was. It won’t be a high bar to clear for the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears but the matchup still figures to be interesting enough on a number of levels to be worth tuning in even if you’re no fan of either team.

The Eagles are of course excited to see what No. 2 overall draft pick Carson Wentz does in his road debut as the team’s starting quarterback. The young signal-caller made several gorgeous throws in a 29-10 win over Cleveland and immediately raised expectations in the city that the team could rebound quickly from the end of the Chip Kelly era. The defense also looked fairly active but the entire team should expect a big jump in terms of competition in Week 2.

That’s because Jay Cutler and company are nobody to take lightly. The Bears looked good in the first half against Houston last week but seemed to really falter coming out of the locker room on offense. Chicago hopes to get those issues corrected when the Bears return home for this game and the undermanned defense could certainly benefit from the crowd at Soldier Field helping out too.

Philadelphia won the last meeting between these two franchises in a 54-11 drubbing three years ago but the Bears have claimed victory in four of the past six. Impressively, Chicago is 13-4 on “Monday Night Football” the past decade.

Philadelphia at Chicago

Kickoff: Monday, Sept. 19 at 8:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Chicago -3

Three Things to Watch

1. Act II for Carson Wentz

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While there was some talk that the second pick in the draft would mostly be riding the bench this season, things have shifted quickly in Philadelphia. Eagles brass shipped Sam Bradford off to Minnesota and promptly handed over the keys to the kingdom to Wentz. The rookie looked impressive in his debut, operating the offense efficiently and throwing some nice passes in a big win. The Browns’ defense is one of the worst in the league so his first road test (on “Monday Night Football" to boot) will be a much more accurate measure for how high a ceiling the young quarterback has in his first season.

2. Eagles’ defense faces a test

Philadelphia’s defense got off to a great start last week by sacking Robert Griffin III three times and generally controlling the Browns’ offense. Fletcher Cox, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham can all make some noise in the backfield and will be looking to take advantage of a Bears offensive line that is in a bit of flux. Still, Chicago’s offense has a ton of weapons you have to contain and the trio of Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffrey and newcomer Kevin White will cause issues for every defense. Nobody will confuse the Eagles’ defense for the one that stifled the Bears in the second half last week but it should be an interesting challenge on that side of the ball for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

3. Which run game gets going?

An active Texans front seven made life miserable for Cutler and the Bears’ offense last week and the lack of a run game became a glaring issue for the team. Jeremy Langford received just 17 carries and averaged a paltry 3.4 yards per, while backup Ka’Deem Carey saw just one rush go for four yards. That’s not going to cut it if Chicago wants to win games but things should be a little easier this week if the offensive line steps up and puts last week behind them. Starting a rookie quarterback on the road, you can bet the Eagles also will look to establish their own ground game behind Ryan Mathews and company. They were able to get a few big plays out of Kenjon Barner last week but we didn’t really see much of Darren Sproles against the Browns. Look for there to be a concerted effort to get Wentz in favorable down and distances with some early runs.

Final Analysis

While both teams are rebuilding this season, each could be on the fringes of the playoff conversation if you look at the rosters and some of the positives from Week 1. We’re a long ways from that however but this early-season test could mark a big turning point for each franchise in 2016.

NFL Power Rankings: Bears

Eagles fans are undoubtedly on cloud nine given how the team played in the opener but one must reign in those expectations considering the competition. All eyes will be on Carson Wentz for his primetime debut but the players around the young signal-caller will really need to step up if Philly wants to go on the road against a solid team and come out with a win. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz knows the Bears well from his days in Detroit and pressure will be on his unit to get stops on a regular basis to pull off a small upset.

In the end however, the Bears showed their potential in that first half against Houston. The offense has weapons if Jay Cutler is given time to find them and John Fox’s defense has a chance to help win the turnover battle by bringing a lot of different looks and unique blitzes that Wentz probably hasn’t seen. It probably won’t be a night where everything goes right for either team but Chicago is just a little further ahead as a team at this point in the season and that will show in a narrow win on “Monday Night Football.”

Prediction: Bears 24, Eagles 20

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.

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