Monday, November 7, 2011

Can the Bears take down Vick and the Eagles?

The Bears' matchup tonight against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field (7:30 p.m. Central on ESPN) can be considered a true test of where they are in terms of competing.

With a record of 4-3 so far, including 1-2 on the road, the Bears will have their work cut out to prove that their performance the last time they appeared on Monday Night Football. During that appearance on Oct. 10, the offensive line had a whopping nine false starts penalties in a a 24-13 loss to the Lions in Detroit. And Philadelphia (3-4) is a MUCH tougher place to play than Detroit despite the Eagles' record.

With that said, let's look at the matchups:

When the Bears have the ball:

Jay Cutler and company will be going up against a defense that has given up an average of three touchdowns a game, including 35 and 31 in embarrassing losses to Atlanta and Buffalo. They finally switched it on last week in destroying the Cowboys in a 34-7 win, but that was more of the offense holding on to the ball for more than 42 minutes and subjecting the Dallas defense to its will.

While will really help is the Eagles' shaky run defense, which is ranked 19th in the league currently with 118.3 yards a game despite holding the Cowboys to only 85 yards last week. If offensive coordinator Mike Martz is smart, he'll unleash running back Matt Forte, who is fifth in the NFL with 672 yards rushing and two touchdown, early and often to exploit those weaknesses, and keep Cutler to efficient passing routes to maintain a 59 percent completion rate.

The offensive line also will have to keep its jitters to a minimum, not committing as many false starts penalties as they did against the Lions and doing a better job of protecting Cutler. The Eagles' defensive line so far has 22 sacks for the season, so it won't be easy.

When the Eagles have the ball:

Here's where it could get ugly.

While the Eagles as an overall team has been disappointing after being picked by many to be a Super Bowl contender, the offense has consistently good, averaging 25.6 points a game and more than 449 yards a game, tops in the NFL. Last week against the Cowboys, they showed just how good they could be with 495 total yards, including 239 yards rushing, including 185 yards and two touchdowns from RB LeSean McCoy.

While the Bears' defense has been okay against the run (12th in the league with 108.7 yards allowed per game), their pass defense is near the bottom, with nearly 272 yards allowed per game). Eagles QB Michael Vick had 279 yards passing against the Cowboys, and he is a vital part of that spread offense the Bears have had trouble defending against teams such as Carolina.


The schedule is expected to get a little bit easier for Chicago after this week, with home games against Kansas City and Seattle and trips to Denver and Oakland in the future. Cutler, Forte and the Bears' offense should be able to put a few points on the board against that Eagles' defense if the offensive line holds up. However, if the defense doesn't come out of it season-long funk and play the smothering D the Bears are known for, Vick and Company could roll and make this another Monday Night Nightmare for Chicago.

Predicted final score:
Eagles - 34
Bears - 17

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