As some of you might have guessed, I am an Eagles fan living in the midwest. I deal with several Bears fans so this game means more to me than it does to most Eagles fans. Losing to the Bears last year hurt a lot. It kept us out of contention for a first round bye. This year's annual Eagles-Bears game looks completely different than it did last season. Both teams have gone through some big changes with one team on the rise and the other on a major decline.
Here's how each teams looks this year versus last year and how they matchup against each other.
Bears receivers vs. Eagles secondary:What a difference a year makes. Last season against the Bears the Eagles top three cornerbacks were Dmitiri Patterson, Trevard Lindley and Joselio Hanson(Asante Samuel was injured). This season the Eagles are a little better off with Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique "Don't call me DRC" Rodgers-Cromartie and a healthy Asante Samuel.
Last season Jay Cutler threw for 247 yards and four touchdowns. Three different Bears wideouts had over 50 receiving yards including Devin Hester who had 86. Johnny Knox added 68 yards and one touchdown and Earl Bennett had 56 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bears will also be without a solid receiving tight end. Last year they had Greg Olsen. This season they have Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth who have combined for a whopping 11 receptions for 122 yards. The Bears not having a dynamic tight end should free up Nnamdi Asomugha to play the outside more in press coverage. Nnamdi locked up with Jason Witten for most of last Sunday night's contest against the Cowboys.
Clearly the Eagles have an edge in the passing game. The Bears don't have a go-to guy at wide receiver and no dynmaic receiving tight end either. The Eagles played a St. Louis Rams team in Week 1 that has a very similar cast at wide receiver. The Bears have more speed than the Rams wideouts do but neither team has a true number one wide receiver and neither team has anyone worth double teaming.
Offensive Line: Last season the Eagles offensive line was their Achilles heel. The right side of the line was laughable and they also had a very inexperience player at center in Mike McGlynn. Andy Reid recognized this and hired offensive line coaching legend Howard Mudd to fix his front five. Mudd got his type of players and the results speak for themselves. Out goes overweight and underachieving Max Jean-Gilles and Nick Cole and in comes undersized Jason Kelce, Bengals castoff Evan Mathis and Canadian hero Danny Watkins. Last year's left guard Todd Herremans has moved to right tackle and has looked like an All-Pro.
Last season the Bears offensive line struggled up until the bye week when Mike Tice made some adjustments and the line responded with a strong second half. This season the Bears line struggled through their bye week again, giving up 21 sacks.
The Eagles line has given up just 13 sacks, even with a quarterback in Michael Vick who hold on to the ball too long in order to make plays. He has a playmakers mentality which can lead to more sacks. 13 is a very impressive number for the offensive line which is starting to assert themselves as one of the best in the league.
The offensive line that controls the line of scrimmage will win this game. Both teams have the premiere running backs in the game. Both teams also have good defensive lines that can get after the pass all night long. Last season offensive line coach Mike Tice turned greatly improved the pass protection in the second half last season and he will need to do it this season again.
Keys and Prediction: Bears- Sacks- If Jay Culterhas time, he will carve up your defense. If he doesn't have time, he will make mistakes. Matt Forte- The Brian Westbrook of 2011. The offense doesn't just revolve around him, they are dependent around him. If he goes, the offense goes. Turnovers- Last season Michael Vick has his first turnover of the 2010 season against the Bears in the red zone. This season Vick has 11 turnovers and the Eagles are 1-4 when he turns the ball over.
Eagles- RUN THE BALL- Simple, the Eagles have to be able to run the ball and stick with it. McCoy has the most yards per game in the league and has scored at lest one touchdown in every single game so far. Last season McCoy had just 10 carries in a losing effort. This time around he should get a minimum of at lest 20-25 touches. Red Zone- The Eagles went through a rough two game stretch against the Giants and 49ers where they had 12 red zone possessions and scored touchdowns in just three of those trips. Last year against Chicago the Eagles had five trips inside the 20 but turned it into just 16 points. That can't happen again. Special Teams- Devin Hester cannot have a major impact in this game. Simple. Punt away from him.
Prediction- Eagles 30 Bears 13- All that Eagles talent is finally coming together at just the right time. The only way the Bears should make this a game is if Matt Forte had a monster game, which isn't out of the question. The Eagles have plenty of speed and athleticism at the linebacker position and should be able to at least contain Forte to just 100-125 total yards. He is averaging over 155 total yards a game.