Posted: 12:25 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013
By Mike E. Kaye
The NFC playoff picture is coming down to the wire and this late-season matchup plays a big factor in the final alignment.
The Eagles and Bears are both in the running for the top of their respective divisions. The Eagles are coming off an upset loss to the Vikings, but had been on a five-game winning streak prior to that defeat. The Bears have won two straight games and are looking for a third to keep the reigns on the NFC North. While a loss for the Eagles means little due to their one game lead over the Cowboys, the Bears need a victory to close out the competition.
The Eagles are coming off a major upset blowout loss to the Vikings. While that is surely a wake-up call to their fanbase and team, Philadelphia is still in control of the NFC East because the Packers have lost two straight games. The Eagles are among the top offensive teams in the league with Chip Kelly and Nick Foles, while LeSean McCoy leads the league in rushing.
The Eagles rank in the top 10 in points, rushing yards, passing yards and total yards this season. Foles has 23 passing touchdowns, only two interceptions and three more rushing scores. Philadelphia needs the Redskins to beat the Cowboys and a win over the Bears to clinch the division on Sunday.
The Chicago Bears are 8-6 and are currently in control of the NFC North. After a rough patch and an injury to Jay Cutler, Chicago bounced back with backup quarterback Josh McCown, who went 3-2 in relief. Along with that, Cutler returned to beat the Browns and has the Bears totally in control of their own destiny heading into Philadelphia.
The Bears rank second in the league in points per game (29.0) along with top-10 rankings in passing and total yards. Chicago has the top wide receiver tandem in the league with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Running back Matt Forte is also among the top rushers in the league.
Brandon Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation believes that the Vikings loss from Week 15 was a major wake up call for the Eagles:
Letdown games happen league-wide. Look no further than the Saints losing to the Rams this week. The Chargers beat the Broncos ... in Denver. The Bengals failed to take care of business against the Steelers. These are just a few examples.
This isn't to say the Eagles' loss is acceptable. There are very real concerns with this team. At the same time, Sunday's result is now a thing of the past. The Eagles have many mistakes to be fix from that game, but now the focus shifts to the next opponent, the Chicago Bears, in what has the potential to be a playoff clinching game for Philadelphia.
The true measure of this team will be their ability to bounce back from adversity. The Eagles stand at a crossroads. Will they show resiliency come Sunday and resemble the team that won five games in a row? Will the Vikings loss truly serve as a wake-up call? Or was the loss a sign of things to come in the remainder of the season?
It's entirely up to the Eagles to shape their destiny.
Steve Schweickert of Windy City Gridiron believes the Bears have to absolutely stop LeSean McCoy from running wild:
There's one number there that scares me more than any other and is the primary reason I picked against the Bears this week (yes, I'm aware of the crap Taylor's given me and Sam for our downer picks). And while the Bears allowed the Browns to only pick up 93 yards (the fourth opponent they've held under 100 rushing yards), their track record prior to taking on the Browns is just too rough for me to ignore.
LeSean McCoy has been great this year, as has Nick Foles since taking over for Michael Vick. Chip Kelly knows how to operate an offense in Philadelphia, and after a rough start in losing five of their first eight, they've gone 5-1 in their last six and only because the Vikings forgot for a brief couple of weeks that they are in fact the Vikings. The Eagles have run for 124, 204, 126, 105, and 299 in their last five wins, and only ran for 79 against the Vikings. In their prior two games where they didn't reach 100 yards rushing, they only scored ten points, combined. The Eagles need to run the ball to balance out their offense; when they do, it brings some pretty good fireworks.
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The majority of SB Nation's experts picked the Eagles to win with Stephen White the only one of the six to pick Chicago.
The Eagles are 2.5-point home favorites against the Bears, according to OddsShark.
The Eagles will travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys in Week 17. The Bears will close out their season in a matchup against the Packers in Chicago.