The Bears absolutely stink. They’ve lost six in a row, they have few good players and most of them are out or won’t be 100%. But anything can happen in the NFL. Jeff Saturday won a game. The Vikings have a worse point differential than the Jaguars but twice the wins. Things happen, maybe they’ll happen on Sunday. The Bears are coming off their bye, at home, and the weather will be very cold–the high will be 26. They have a few things that might help them make this game closer than it should be.
Justin Fields’ legs
The Bears offense is a poor man’s version of the 2021 Eagles offense. Their leading rusher is their QB, and because of limitations in the passing game–the Bears’ are significantly more severe than the Eagles’ were–they don’t throw the ball much. The 2021 Eagles were last in attempts, as are the 2022 Bears, though the Eagles were one attempt behind 31st place, the Bears are currently 21 behind.
The best chance the Bears have to win is by Fields running all over an Eagles defense that has struggled against the run for much of the season. It’s not an unreasonable hope? There aren’t many QBs who profile anything like Fields, but Kyler Murray gets closer than most. Murray ran the ball three times in the 4th quarter against the Eagles for 13, 15, and 9 yards, contributing to a touchdown drive and a game tying field goal attempt. In the previous three quarters, he ran the ball just once, and that was in the third quarter. Why weren’t the Cardinals using his legs more? You don’t want Murray running it eight times a game every week, but why are you not testing out a defense in the first half when you’re down 14?
The Eagles should put away the Bears, but a sub-zero road game against a QB who creates on the fly with his legs is a decent recipe for making what should be a blowout a close game. And Fields is going to test them, he’s run the ball at least 6 times in every game, and averages 11 a game. Fields has had five games with 80+ rushing yards, four of them were one score games. He’s had six games where he’s averaged over 7 yards a carry, four of those were one score games and another was a 9 point game. This is how the Bears keep it close.
Road games have been close games for the Eagles
Sticking with that Cardinals game for a moment, it was one in a theme for the Eagles of road games giving them more trouble than they probably should. Playing worse on the road—or for a team as good as the Eagles, playing better at home—isn’t anything unusual. In 6 home wins the Eagles are +88, in 6 road wins they are +61, 4.5 points per game better at home. Not a huge surprise that the Eagles are that much better at home. But to put it another way, they’ve had a single home game decided by one score, but three on the road.
Keep your friends close
No one has outcoached Nick Sirianni yet this season. Could a former colleague change that? Bears head coach Matt Eberflus and Sirianni joined the Colts in 2018, Ebeflus hired as defensive coordinator by Josh McDaniels ahead of McDaniels turning down the head coach job hours after being announced as the head coach, while Sirianni was brought in as offensive coordinator by Frank Reich.
This is grasping at straws, but that’s how the Bears are going to be playing. They are without their most efficient running back in Khalil Herbert and their top receiver in Darnell Mooney; and possibly their second and third most productive receivers in Equanimeous St. Brown and Dante Pettis.
Oh who am I kidding. If there’s an inside advantage to be had by one of these head coaches, it’s Sirianni. The offense he runs is not the same one the Colts ran, and that offense wasn’t all Sirianni anyway. Meanwhile the Colts defense was all Eberflus, and though he has more experience as an assistant coach, this is Eberflus’s first year as a head coach. And last week Sirianni went up against Brian Daboll, a former mentor, and absolutely did not take it easy on him. He probably should have pulled his starters earlier, instead the Eagles scored two touchdowns in the last 6 minutes. Good luck Matt!