PFW: Chicago shares its predictions for Sunday's wild-card round clash between Bears and Eages at Soldier Field.
Hub Arkush (regular-season record: 12-4)
Having won nine of their last 10, the Bears are smoking hot right now and playing defense at another level above anyone in the league — with the possible exception of the Ravens.
Philly has shown the hearts of champions, and their win at Los Angeles proved it. But winning five of their last six included two against a decimated Washington team, one vs. the Giants and the Texans win was a struggle at home to get past what might be the most overrated team in the playoffs.
The Eagles still have a ton of top-end talent. But the offensive line hasn't played like it a good part of the year, they're banged up at left tackle, their cornerbacks have stabilized but are still very young backups and it's really hard to envision Philly running the ball against the Bears' No. 1 ranked run 'D.'
It's also hard to imagine Doug Pederson has too many tricks up his sleeve that Matt Nagy can't share with Vic Fangio.
Injuries at wide receiver are a bit of a concern for the Bears, but the strong, late-season improvement in their ground game really helps.
The Eagles are the champs until someone knocks them off, but right now, the Bears are the better team and appear to be just the guys to do it.
Bears 23, Eagles 13
Bob LeGere (regular-season record: 12-4)
The late-season magic of Eagles QB Nick Foles culminated in his being named the Super Bowl LII MVP after the 2017 season. And he’s doing it again this year. Foles is 4-1 when filling in for Carson Wentz, including the last three games of the season, all of which Philly needed to win to make the postseason. Foles completed 25 straight passes last week, tying the all-time NFL record, before leaving with a rib injury that won’t keep him from starting Sunday.
But Foles will find the going much more difficult against the Bears’ defense than he did in Washington in Week 17. The Bears’ defense has Pro Bowl players at all three levels and seems to have all 11 playing at peak efficiency. And the Bears’ NFL-best run defense has the ability to make the Eagles one-dimensional, which greatly increases the difficulty factor for Foles.
Philadelphia has struggled to run against much-less-imposing defenses than the Bears’. The same can be said for the Bears’ ground game against a stout Eagles run defense. But QB Mitch Trubisky could take advantage of an injury-weakened Eagles secondary, provided his dinged-up crew of wide receivers is healthier than it was at the end of Week 17.
Bears 24, Eagles 16
Arthur Arkush (regular-season record: 13-3)
Sure, the Eagles are dangerous. They’re reigning Super Bowl champs, after all, with a D-line capable of bringing pressure in waves, playmakers in their passing game and a quarterback whose crunch-time gene is now legendary.
They’re also not as healthy, nor as hot, as the Bears, and any edge in experience we might give Doug Pederson’s Eagles could be negated by the Bears’ advantage of playing at home, where they’re 7-1, behind a raucous fan base that’s waited nearly eight years for Sunday.
Are the Bears ideally equipped to attack Philly’s greatest weakness — its pass ‘D?’ Perhaps not with Mitch Trubisky making fewer mistakes but also taking fewer chances of late and a bit of uncertainty regarding the injuries to Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller.
We already know what Chicago's 'D' is bringing to the party — a run-game eraser and the explosive pass rush and takeaway specialists to batter Nick Foles into a mistake or two.
It's Trubisky’s recent roll, including the efficient effort in San Francisco against a ‘D’ similar to Philly’s, and Matt Nagy’s Coach-of-the-Year-caliber work to date that tells me the Bears' bigger question marks will pass their first playoff test together.
Bears 23, Eagles 18
Eric Edholm (regular-season record: 12-4)
This game comes down to a few crucial matchups, none of which really slant heavily toward Philly.
First, the Eagles haven't fared as well vs. mobile QBs. In five games against Dak Prescott (two meetings), Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota and Andrew Luck, the Eagles allowed them to complete 69.8 percent of their passes (vs. 65.0 percent against all other QBs), throw for nine TDs (and only three INTs) and rush for two more scores. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz likes to run man coverage, and that might not work with Mitch Trubisky able to escape pressure and scramble for first downs.
Khalil Mack was relatively quiet against the Eagles last season, but I don't think the Raiders used him that well. Watch for Vic Fangio to employ Mack on both sides, run twists and stunts inside and give the Eagles protection issues.
For the Bears, containing DT Fletcher Cox and TEs Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert might be concerns. But Chicago previously did a good job vs. Rams DT Aaron Donald and has not allowed a tight end to really sting the defense recently outside of one long grab from George Kittle two weeks ago.
As admirably as Nick Foles has played, the Bears' pressure and coverage will make it tough for him to be the hero for four quarters that Philly needs to pull the upset.
Bears 27, Eagles 19