The Philadelphia Eagles are on the road to face the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon. In order to preview their Week 15 matchup, I reached out to our enemies over at Windy City Gridiron. The pleasant Patti Curl took the time to answer my questions about this upcoming battle. Let’s take a look at the answers. [For my answers to Patti’s questions about the Eagles, stay tuned to WCG.]
Our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook have all of the odds for this week’s games.
1 - Justin Fields has received a lot of credit recently despite the Bears being on a big losing streak. What improvements have you seen? What’s the confidence level in him right now?
It’s honestly a little bizarre how large a shift the national media has taken on Justin Fields over the past couple of months. I believe he deserves the credit because he’s had real development and impressive moments, but he’s not a different player than he was at the beginning of the season. What’s most promising to me is that he’s definitely benefiting from getting more comfortable with his new offense and with figuring out what he can get away with at the NFL level. Specifically, he’s gotten better at processing the field and pulling the trigger on early reads, he’s gotten better at evading the pass rush, and he’s started to get more comfortable with tight window and anticipatory throws. Ironically, the interception that turned the tides in last week’s Packers game was on such an anticipatory throw where the receiver didn’t fulfill expectations. He’s also learned what he can get away with running the ball, and that happens to be copious first down conversions and record-breakingly-frequent half-field touchdown scampers. Confidence is as high as it’s been for a Bears quarterback since peak Cutler, whenever you may think that was. Just imagine what he could be if he ever started eating meat. Picture a faster Jalen Hurts with a better deep ball and smoother dance moves.
2 - To what extent are you encouraged about Matt Eberflus and the Bears’ front office moving forward?
There’s been plenty to be encouraged about despite the Bears record, especially with the front office. During the Ryan Pace era, Bears fans soured on his strategy of frequently trading up in the draft and giving up future resources to achieve mediocre results. Ryan Poles has a much more judicious approach to resource management, and I agree with his assessment that the best way to get through the Bears roster situation was a year of minimum spending keeping his sites on being competitive in the next couple years. In his first draft, he didn’t force picks for need, and he traded back several times (albeit with late picks). The big test will be what he does this off-season, with league high cap space and a high draft pick.
Matt Eberflus has brought a culture to the Bears which appears to be substantively different and more effective than Nagy’s. The team is more disciplined in terms of penalties, and his high-effort takeaway-minded HITS philosophy has intermittently looked like it’s translated to results. It would be nice to see him win some of these close games, but for now I’ll assume he’s learning important lessons at the right time in a non-playoff season.
3 - What is the Bears’ biggest strength right now? How should they be attacking the Eagles?
The Bears biggest strength is definitely the run game. It starts with Justin Fields, but the offensive line and skill positions in the run game are also their strengths, and Luke Getsy has done a good job of being creative and productive with the run scheme, even against teams who generally do well defending it. The defense hasn’t been doing good at much of anything lately, although their relative strength is in pass defense. The Bears best chance to win the game is for Justin Fields to have magic moments leading to a lot of points and then get lucky in turnovers.
4 - What is the Bears’ biggest weakness right now? How should the Eagles be attacking them?
Can I just say the trenches? The Eagles should and will bully the Bears on both sides of the line and that will almost certainly lead to a win. The Bears offensive line can do okay in the run game and in play action or quick passes, but they won’t be able to hold off the Eagles in “true pass sets.” On offense, the Eagles should have an easy flight through the park if they run frequently and pass when their star receivers get good matchups, which should be often. Right now, this is basically like asking “what’s the best strategy to play Madden on rookie mode”? Just do what feels fun to you and watch it work out.
5 - Who wins this game and why? With DraftKings Sportsbook listing the Eagles as 9-point favorites, what’s your score prediction?
If you’ve read this far, or watched this season, you probably think I’m going to say the Eagles win. But nobody has called me out for being wrong in one of these, so I’ll keep predicting the Bears win, this time 42 to 35. Justin Fields leads the Bears offense to score on every drive through sheer force of will and ursine vigor, and UDFA rookie linebacker Jack Sanborn seals the game with a late pick-6 on Eagles only drive that doesn’t reach the end zone.
BGN’s John Stolnis interviewed WCG’s EJ Snyder for this week’s edition of Eye On The Enemy for BGN Radio.