Week 12 Matchup Preview: Eagles offense faces tough Bears D

By JEFFREY WARNER
Staff Writer — jwarner@highhopesblog.com
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Brian Urlacher anchors a tough Bears defense

Sunday afternoon, it’s a battle of two first place teams in Week 12 of the NFL. The 7-3 Eagles and the 7-3 Bears take flight as both try to continue their winning ways to keep their respective division’s top spot, in what’s becoming a tight NFC playoff race. Both teams are coming in hot — winners of three straight. The Eagles are coming off that impressive 27-17 win over the Giants to take sole possession of first place in the division. Last week The Bears won shutting out the Dolphins 16-0 in a defensive battle, as they try to stay ahead the Packers in the NFC North. This should be one of the better games of the Eagles season on Sunday.

News and Notes

NFL Spread: Line: Eagles -3

Overall Series: Bears lead 28-12-1

Streak: Eagles won six of last eight meetings

Andy Reid vs Bears: 5-2

Vick vs Bears: 0-3

Eagles Defensive Back Coach Dick Jauron was the head coach of the Bears from 1999-2003

Last Meeting: Nov 22. 2009, Eagles win 24-20- A back and forth battle the whole game as both teams were fighting for playoff contention. The Eagles came out on top when RB Lesean Mccoy scored on a 10 yard run for the game winner with only 5:33 left in the game. Mccoy player of the game also had 99 rushing yards in the game.

EAGLES (NFL Rank)            BEARS (NFL Rank)

28.4 (2nd) Points Per Game 19.1 (25th)

399.4 (2nd) Total Offense 294.4 (30th)

150.8 (3rd) Rushing Offense 99.0 (20th)

248.6 (9th) Passing Offense 195.4 (27th)

22.6 (t-19th) Points Allowed 14.6 (t-1st)

313.3 (9th) Total Defense 290.4 (3rd)

99.7 (8th) Rushing Defense 78.0 (2nd)

213.6 (t-13th) Passing Defense 212.4 (12th)

42.14 (8th) 3rd Down Offense % 32.33 (29th)

37.12 (13th) 3rd Down Defense % 30.60 (2nd)

+15 (1st) Turnover Ratio +3 (t-11th)

Injury Report

Eagles: Out — CB A.Samuel (knee). Questionable — DT A.Dixon (abdomen) DE J.Parker (hip).

Bears: none

The Three Keys to Victory

  • Take Advantage of Opportunities.
  • Get to Cutler
  • Establish Drives.

Eagles Offense

This is an Eagles offense right now that is trying to start clicking again. Two weeks ago they put on one of the most electrifying performances that we seen this year. Last week against the Giants they struggled to move the football efficiently. So this week they look to put all of that behind them and play football. The Eagles are winners of three straight and one of the main reasons has been the play of their star QB Michael Vick.

Vick has been playing outstanding. He is one of the top passers in the league. And his versatility and mobility has worked wonders for him this season. But what is big is his ball security. He has only turned the ball over once this year and has set a franchise record with 191 passing attempts without an interception. Vick looks to get back in a rhythm as last week wasn’t one of his best games. He was missing receivers, overthrowing the football, and just wasn’t making the decisions we have been accustomed to. But he looks to put all of that behind him as if he gets the time in the pocket the offensive line has been giving him and gets back to the high level he was performing at, Vick and the Eagles will be going places come January. But the weapons he has around him make him even better.

The Eagles could possibly have the best wide receiving core in the NFL. It is tough for defenses to try and single out one guy because everyone on this Eagles roster can make plays. WR Jeremy Maclin and Desean Jackson combine for over 1500 yards and 12 touchdowns. Both players are looking at 1000 yard seasons and they are still developing. Jackson last meeting had over 100 yards and a touchdown and lloks to score his third score in a row against the Bears.

The Eagles also have one of the clutches receivers in the league and that is Jason Avant as all he catches if first downs and touchdowns. But he did drop an easy one last week in the back of the end zone when he was wide open. You also have to look at TE Brent Celek who is having a down year but if you leave him open he will make you pay.

Then you have to look at the versatile back Lesean Mccoy. Mccoy having a pro bowl year with over 1100 yards of offense and leads RBs in receptions. His ability to make you pay in the running game and in the passing game is big as he is so tough to bring down in open field. Backup Jerome Harrison can also make plays in both the passing and running game as he showed a few weeks ago with over 100 yards.

But this offense is going to have to establish and continue drives if they want to win. They only converted three third downs last week and they are going up against the best third down defense in the league. More importantly when the opportunity presents itself they need to execute in the red zone and not settle for field goals. As last week they were one for five in punching it in the end zone. They were given short fields set up by the defense numerous times. When you have it right in your lap you can’t settle for that in this league.

They need to control the tempo and the clock keeping the Bears offense off the field. Wear down the defense and jump start this offense early and get out to a big lead. During this three game winning streak, the Eagles have outscored opponents 48-0 in the first quarter. Quick starts lately means victories for the Eagles as they have averaged 37 points a game and putting up over 450 yards of offense during this streak. This Eagles offense when they get clicking they are tough to handle.

Bears Defense

This is a Bears unit that is tops in the league in almost every defensive category. They are dominant in all aspects of the game. They have a fierce front seven led by defensive leader, linebacker Brian Urlacher. The aging veteran has shown he still got what it takes to perform in the NFL, making plays in the backfield against the run. He is a huge reason why this unit is only allowing 78 rushing yards a game. Chicago also has Pro Bowl LB Lance Briggs who has a lot of speed off the edges and defensive end Julius Peppers who does a tremendous job to get to the quarterback. But that is one thing the Bears have struggled to do.

Chicago has to find a way to get pressure and take down the quarterback. They only have 19 total sacks this season and 11 of them from their bookends Israel Idonje and Julius Peppers. They have to find pressure from other guys because the line is going to focus on these two guys and shut them down. If they have no one else to fear on the defense they are going to struggle to get the quarterback if no one else can be productive.

This is a secondary that has played brilliant so far this year. Once a weakness on this team is now one of their strengths, with cornerback Charles Tillman and D.J. Moore who combined for seven of the Bears 15 picks this season. This team has only given up six touchdown passes all year long. They don’t get beat deep down the field and play very conservative. A lot of cover two defense from this ball club and it’s tough to move the football on this club.

Overall this Bears D is really tough. They are only giving up 14.6 points a game, tied for best in the league. One of the top red zone defenses in the league. They up near top of the league in takeaways and they are the number one scoring defense in the league. They do a tremendous job to shutdown offenses and that has been the key to the Bears’ success this season and why are in the hunt for the playoffs.

Edge: Even

This is a pretty even matchup. This is going to be about who can make more plays. A high power Eagles offense goes up a stingy, fierce defense. Michael Vick is going to have to play flawless football and is going to have to lead this offense and sustain drives to move the football. But it’s going to be tough with this defense. He has to be more accurate to squeeze it in the tight zone coverage that the Bears give. When given time he has shown he can do that and beat you. They don’t bring a lot of blitz schemes from the outside where Vick has been so effective breaking free and making plays on the run. Mainly they bring pressure from the front seven and the linebackers. So Andy Reid is going to have to remain balance and attack at this defense if he wants to succeed. It’s a tough challenge for both ball clubs.

Bears Offense

A Bears’ offense that continues to struggle this season. They have struggled to put up points this season as this team is only averaging 19.1 points a game. They are in the bottom half of the league in most offensive categories and they have problems with ball security as have committed a league high, 25 turnovers this season. A big reason has been the inconsistent play of their leader, QB Jay Cutler.

Cutler has turned it over 14 times this season and has only thrown for 12 touchdowns. He has had troubles finding his weapons this season and his accuracy has been a problem all year long. When you run Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz’s offense you have to have a lot of accuracy to get it to your weapons and he hasn’t been able to do that. A lot has to do with the amount of time he is given in the pocket- none.

The offensive line for the Bears has been herendous this year. They have given up 37 sacks, a league high. He has no time to get rid of the football and sets them up in horrible position to pick up first downs. They have not been able to establish consistent drives as they are also one of the league’s worst in 3rd down conversions. Between the horrible line play and amount of penalties that Chicago commits, 60 for 508 yds, they are unable to get in a rhythm together and make plays. They have a lot of talent and speed on the outside.

Their receivers are young but still can make plays. WR Johnny Knox is their leading receiver with 672 yards but only one score. Devin Hester has not been as much of a factor as they would like, with 284 yds and two scores. Bears receivers only have four touchdown catches this year. TE Greg Olsen who is dangerous in open space leads the team with four TDs and the versatile back Matt Forte is the second leading weapon in yards and touchdowns.

Speaking of Matt Forte, he is just like Eagles’ RB Lesean Mccoy. He is able to make plays in the run game and in the passing game. He has total for about 900 yards of offense this year and seven total scores. He has not been able to be as productive as he has gotten no room to make plays with his mediocre line. But he is able to make plays out of nothing which makes him so dangerous.

Just wait for Sunday as this unit has not been able to get things clicking. Last week could only put up 16 total points against an average Dolphins defense. Red zone effiency has been a struggle for Chicago. And settling for field goals in this league isn’t going to help you win football games. If they want to win they have to get things going and score some points.

Eagles Defense

This is a unit that has come along that past couple of weeks from where they were the start of the season. They are playing smash mouth football. They have been able to create havoc for opposing team offenses and make plays. They have been dominant not giving up the big plays and thriving off getting to the quarterback all season long.

They have one of the fierce pass rushes in the league. This unit has been outstanding in that department bringing down the QB 26 times this year. With this pass rush rotation they have been outstanding keeping players fresh. Everyone on that defensive line has been contributing whether its rookie Brandon Graham, DT Trevor Laws, Darryl Tapp, or one of the best defensive ends in the league, Trent Cole.

Cole is a complete difference maker on this defense. He is able to get to the quarterback which he has brought down seven times this year but also his versatility to bring down the running back is very big for the defensive end. But a big part of Cole’s play has been the emergence of DT Antonio Dixon who is questionable for this week.

If Dixon is gone that is a major blow to this defense because he has been such a difference maker making everyone around him better. He has done an outstanding job clogging holes and stuffing the run as well as getting pressure on the quarterback. That is exactly what you need from your tackle because it opens up the field for the rest of the defense. If he can’t play DT Brodrick Bunkley would get the nod. Well if the Eagles are able to get pressure like they have it will really do wonders to a beat up secondary.

The Eagles have gone through more defensive backs this year than any other year I could remember. Rookie FS Nate Allen returned from injury a week ago and still looks like the injury is lingering. Safety Quintin Mikell aging body is hurting. They lose Ellis Hobbs for the season and have signed CB Brandon Hughes who will play a lot of dime situations and special teams especially with CB Asante Samuel out for this game with a knee injury he suffered a week ago on a game sealing fumble recovery. In Samuel’s place nickel corner Joselio Hanson will get the start who in the past when given the chance to start he has not come up big in his performance. He is very small and is a liability in man coverage. They will also look to rookie Trevard Lindley and return man Jorrick Calvin to step up and contribute with the lack of depth they have right now. Not a good situation for the Eagles at this time to be in going down the stretch being as banged up in a area that has been their weakness all year long.

The line backing core lead by Stewart Bradley, Ernie Sims, and Moise Fokou have really gelled and came together the past couple of weeks to make plays. With all that speed they have been able to get off blocks and get to the edges to make the plays. The one category they continue to struggle and that is in pass coverage. They have been mediocre in covering the tight end getting beat and also running backs out of the backfield. With all that speed they have problems sticking in man coverage. And they have a tough challenge this week with Greg Olsen and Matt Forte.

Overall this is a defense that has been inconsistent all year. One week they will just dominate and shut down offenses, and then the next will get demolished. It’s tough to say which team is suppose to show up. They have done an outstanding job in the run game, not allowing a 100 yard rusher this season. They don’t allow offenses to go up and down the field on them and have had most of the success from getting to the quarterback and causing turnovers. Let’s see which team shows up this week.

Edge: Eagles

Everything relies on the Eagles getting pressure on Jay Cutler as he is behind a horrible offensive line. The Eagles secondary is beat up so getting pressure on Cutler doesn’t allow him time to get the ball out and get his to his weapons. The Bears struggle against top defenses and against this unit they will struggle again. They have not been able to run the football this year and if can’t move the chains and consistently gain yardage they are in trouble. The Eagles defense is just too much for the Bears to handle.

Intangibles: Bears

Both teams have equal special teams for the most part but the Bears have one of the most dynamic return men in the game with Devin Hester who has a total of 13 return TDs in career. They have had extra couple days to rest as they played on Thursday night a week ago. And they have the home field advantage where the Eagles have struggled on the road against the Bears. But Philly has one of the best coaches and coaching staffs in the league that can come up with just about anything to get the victory.

Prediction: Eagles 17-10 over Bears

This is going to be a tough challenge again for the Eagles going up against a great defense. It will be a defensive battle until MVP candidate QB Michael Vick shows why he has been so successful this year and he makes a play to get the Eagles in the end zone for the eventual game winner. The Eagles defense has another magnificent game as they get to Jay Cutler and force him to make mistakes with the football. It will be a good game overall but the Eagles will come out on top.

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