Hub Arkush: Bears, Eagles as close as it gets

Published: Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013 11:31 p.m.CDT • Updated: Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013 11:33 p.m.CDT
Caption
(Andy King)
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson reacts after catching a 30-yard touchdown pass during the second half against the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 15 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy King)

Why does it feel as if the Browns were the Bears last exhibition game and now things start for real? Because the Browns are pretenders.

With Philadelphia this week, and the Packers to close out the season, it’s almost as if the Bears will have to win two playoff games just to get to the playoffs.

The Eagles figure to show up angry this Sunday after getting upset at Minnesota last week to snap their five-game winning streak and lose the chance to open up a two–game lead in the NFC East.

Like the Bears, Philadelphia is 8-6 and vying for first place in their division. But, unlike the Bears, they would lose a tiebreaker for their division crown.

Who’s more dangerous, a team looking to clinch or a team that must win to stay alive?

There’s a good chance none of that will matter to the team that loses this Sunday night’s prime time showdown between the Bears and Eagles.

In addition to being in a very foul mood, the Eagles are still one of the hottest teams in the league, having won five of their past six and seven of their past 10, and they will test the Bears on both sides of the ball.

Philadelphia is eighth in the NFL in points scored, second in total offense, 10th throwing the football and they are first in the league running the ball and in average gain a run.

In case you haven’t heard, the Bears are dead last in the league defending the run.

LeSean McCoy leads the NFL with 269 carries for 1,343 yards, a 5.0 yard a carry average, a long of 57, and seven rushing touchdowns. He leads second-place Adrian Peterson by 122 yards. And, for some inexplicable reason, Eagles coach Chip Kelly elected to give the ball to McCoy just eight times last Sunday in Minnesota while throwing it 48 times, so he should be very well rested.

The Eagles offense didn’t take flight until second-year pro Nick Foles was installed at quarterback and he‘s now the NFL’s top–rated quarterback at 117.0 with 23 touchdowns and two interceptions.

That ranks him significantly ahead of Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees.

DeSean Jackson is having an All-Pro season, outpacing Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery with 75 catches for 1,275 yards, a 17.0 yard-a-catch average with nine touchdowns.

Riley Cooper has become a force as well with 743 yards and seven touchdowns and rookie Zach Ertz is emerging lately with four more touchdowns.

Fortunately, the Eagles aren’t near as impressive on defense, ranking 17th in points allowed and 30th in total defense. Philadelphia is 16th against the run and just 31st against the pass.

The Eagles don’t rush the quarterback particularly well, nor do they do a great job protecting Foles, having allowed 39 sacks while making just 32.

The Bears on the other hand have protected very well allowing just 24 QB Sacks all year, but pressure the pocket even less than Philly having dropped the opposing quarterback just 26 times.

Big plays and sudden change will be huge in this one as the Eagles are seventh in the league at + 9 in turnover/takeaway ratio while the Bears are 10th at +6.

The real differences between these two clubs are that the Eagles can hammer you with the run or pass while the Bears can run but are more dependent on the pass, and Philly is stingier giving up points.

Throw in one of the rowdiest home crowds in the NFL at the “Linc” in the city of brotherly love – where they hate anyone who isn’t a brother – and the Bears have their work cut out for them.

This is as close to a tossup as I’ve seen in a long while, and the team that gets the last toss most likely wins.

• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at harkush@shawmedia.com.

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