The Chicago Bears are headed to the postseason for the first time since 2010. While that is something to get excited about in itself, the way they got here is just as impressive. The Bears went from last place in the NFC North a year ago to winning the division this year with a record of 12-4. In fact, if three or four plays during the season go differently than they did, this team could easily be sitting at 14-2 or even 15-1. Let’s not dwell on what could’ve been though. The Bears are in the playoffs and hosting a wild card game this Sunday versus the reigning champion Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles are coming into this contest as hot as anyone with three straight victories and winners in five of their last six games. Of their three straight victories, two came against playoff teams in the Los Angeles Rams and the Houston Texans. The Bears are coming in pretty hot themselves as they are winners of four straight and also nine of their last ten. Sunday should be a very good game with two teams playing their best football currently. Let’s take a look at how the two teams stack up position by position.
Bears: Mitchell Trubisky
Eagles: Nick Foles
Analysis: One could definitely make the argument that Trubisky is more talented than Foles. He is much more mobile and able to make something out of nothing on a routine basis. Foles is more of your traditional pocket passer. If this was a regular season, meaningless game, then Trubisky might get the nod. However, there is just something about must-win games that brings out the best in Foles. This will be Trubisky’s first playoff action so we can’t be sure of how he will handle the situation. Foles has some bruised ribs as well so who knows how comfortable he is going to be. Can’t argue a ring though, last year’s Super Bowl MVP gets the slight nod here.
Analysis: This one is not even close. A year after having one of the best backfields in football, the Eagles have regressed immensely. Injuries have brought former Notre Dame standout, Josh Adams, up from the practice squad into a starting role. He has played well for the most part. Sproles has made a play here and there but is ultimately a shell of his former self. Smallwood provides a receiving option out of the backfield, but is not a guy defense will be game planning for. Jordan Howard is hitting his stride at the perfect time as he has 399 yards and four touchdowns over the last five games of the season. We all know what Cohen is capable of as he lines up all over the place in this offense. The duo compliments each other as well as any backfield in the league and Matt Nagy is getting the most out of them right now.
Analysis: This grouping essentially cancels one another out. Jeffery and Robinson are the two number ones and are both bigger guys that can win those 50/50 balls when given the opportunity. Agholor and Gabriel provide the speed and deep threats. Tate and Miller are both good route runners and excel in making things happen after the catch. Tate has been doing this for a while but is still looking to break out in this offense. Miller left the Viking’s game with a shoulder injury so it will be worth keeping an eye on if he plays, on top of how effective he will be. Matthews and Bellamy are not going to have 8 catches, but are capable of making a big catch here or there on third down late in a game. This group is a toss-up.
Analysis: Burton has played very well for the Bears after playing a backup role to Ertz a year ago on the Eagles. He was signed by the Bears to become their number one tight end and has become a huge piece to this offense. He has 54 catches this season for 569 yards and six touchdowns. Those are all career highs for the former Florida Gator. However, he is being compared to a guy who just broke the single-season receptions by a tight end record in Zach Ertz. Ertz finished the season with 116 catches, 1,163 yards, and eight touchdowns. He is the best and most consistent receiving option on this Eagles team. Goedert and Shaheen both provide solid depth. Eagles have a top three tight end in Ertz so they get the nod here.
Analysis: This one is a lot closer than it seems. According to PFF, the Eagles line ranked fifth overall while the Bears came in at 11. While the Bears do not have a guy that is the best at his position, they are all very solid. The interior of this line is the strength with rookie James Daniels proving to be a force along with the return of Kyle Long. the tackle play isn’t spectacular, but it is solid as I mentioned. Jason Kelce is one of the best centers in the league, Brandon Brooks is a pro bowler this year, and Lane Johnson is still one of the best right tackles in the game. It is surprising that Peters may be the weak link on this Eagles’ line. He is having one of the worst seasons of his career as he has given up 34 pressures this season. Nonetheless, the Eagles get the edge here.
Analysis: It is not easy to compare defensive lines when the Eagles run a 4-3 versus the Bears running a 3-4. However, we’ll make it happen. Cox and Hicks are both studs in the middle who can dominate a game up front. They make all the guys around them that much better as they consistently demand attention inside. Goldman and Nichols are both very solid up front for the Bears as well, but this one simply comes down to depth. The Eagles have guys coming off the bench who would be starters for a number of other teams. Ngata and Long are not what they once were by any means, but they are still two veterans capable of making plays. Bennett is second on the team in sacks with 9, regardless if he has shoulder pads on or not. Eagles get the edge here due to their depth and the fact that these are two entirely different schemes.
Analysis: This is another one that is simply no contest. In fact, this might be the most one-sided grouping of the matchup. Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham are both solid players but do not deserve to be put in the same sentence with these Bears. Neither of them broke 100 combined tackles this season while both Smith (122) and Trevathan (102) did. We can stop here and give the edge to the Bears, but we haven’t even gotten to Mack and Floyd. Mack is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate and has proven he is capable of taking over games and making boys out of tackles in this league. Floyd got off to a slow start but has come along strong in the second half this season. The Bears have arguably the best linebacking corps in the league and the Eagles do not. Bears get the edge here and it’s not close.
Analysis: Similar to linebacker, this comparison is not remotely close. The Eagles have been decimated by injuries in the defensive backfield and have struggled to cover guys all season. They have only produced six interceptions from the corner position as a whole. Kyle Fuller has seven himself. The Eagles have been forced to plug and play guys who quite honestly should not be seeing the field with starters. Fuller and Amukamara have been one of the best corner duos in football this year as the Bears defense is number one in opposing quarterback rating at 72.9. The next closest team is the Ravens at 80.6 to put things into perspective. Bryce Callahan was a big loss for the Bears at slot cornerback, but veteran McManis has stepped up and played well thus far. The Eagles give up the third most yards per game through the air with 269.2 and that is due largely in part to their corner play. Bears take this one easily.
Analysis: This is a comparison of old and young. Jenkins is 31 and Graham is 33. Jackson is 26 and Amos is 25. Jenkins has been the best defender on this Eagles team for years and this year is no different. He led the team in tackles with 97 and added an interception on top. He is the leader of that defense and is still capable of making plays. The former Bear, Corey Graham, has been converted to safety as is the case with many aging cornerbacks who simply do not have the speed to play outside anymore. According to PFF, Eddie Jackson graded out as the number one safety in football this year with an overall grade of 93.2. He is one of the best young ball-hawking free safeties in the game and Adrian Amos can come down and lay some serious wood on guys. Jackson has missed the past couple games with an ankle injury sustained against the Packers, but coach Nagy has said he expects him to be ready come Sunday. Bears young guns edge the aging veterans here.
Bears: Pat O’Donnell (P), Cody Parkey (K)
Analysis: Bears fans everywhere are praying that their playoff hopes do not depend on a field goal this postseason. Parkey has been the one weak spot of this team this year and has cost them a couple games as well. No one will ever forget the game against the Lions earlier this year where he hit the uprights four times. That is incredible. Luckily, they were not critical misses as the Bears won the game handily. He has missed three extra points this year including one last week against the Vikings. He has also only made 23 of his 30 field goal attempts for a dreadful percentage of 76.7, the lowest of his career. Jake Elliott, on the other hand, has had another solid season in his second year. He has not been as accurate from deep as he was last season where he made five of six from 50+. This season he is just two for five from that distance. I still would take Elliott with the game on the line over Parkey. O’Donnell and Johnston both have very similar stats punting.
Bears: Matt Nagy (HC), Mark Helfrich (OC), Vic Fangio (DC), Chris Tabor (ST)
Eagles: Doug Pederson (HC), Mike Groh (OC), Jim Schwartz (DC), Dave Fipp (ST)
Analysis: This was the closest one to call, but ultimately goes to the Eagles based purely on experience. Both Pederson and Nagy are disciples of Andy Reid and have proven they can run a very complex offense. While he may not be head coach material, Schwartz is a solid defensive mind. However, I’ll take Vic Fangio over anyone in that discussion. Both Tabor and Fipp are solid special teams guys. As I mentioned, this one comes down to experience. Pederson led this Eagles team to a Super Bowl last year with a backup quarterback. If that doesn’t show the worth of him then I’m not sure what will. Nagy has done an excellent job with taking this Bears team from last to first and should no doubt be up for Coach of the Year, but this will be his first playoff game as a head coach. I expect lots of fourth and shorts to be gone for and potentially some two-point conversions as well, as both of these guys are not shy to take risks.
Overall Thoughts: If taken position by position, the Eagles get the slight edge. However, the Bears wins are by a much bigger margin than the Eagles. Nick Foles gets the edge because of what he did last year and has done this year in must-win games. He has not played a defense as talented and well-coached as this bears one. The Eagles offensive line is better, but it is not a landslide. Their defensive line gets the nod, but that is only because they have a 4-3 look versus the Bears 3-4. The Bears front seven, in general, is much better than the Eagles. The Bears’ secondary is light years ahead of the Eagles. Jake Elliott is a better kicker, period. Coaching goes to the Eagles due mainly to experience, again. This can be close, but the Bears are ultimately too much at home and Nick Foles’ playoff magic comes to an end this Sunday in the Windy City.
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Credit: The Loop Sports.