The Philadelphia Eagles’ Week 16 game against the Chicago Bears has the potential to be on either end of the spectrum in regards to importance. It could end up being significant or insignificant for either or both teams.
If Dallas loses earlier in the day, the Eagles can clinch the division with a win. For the Bears, if Detroit and Green Bay lose, they can clinch the division. The game would lose most of its significance if Dallas and either Detroit or Green Bay wins.
If that happens, then both the Bears and Eagles would have their playoff fates decided in Week 17.
However, as I previously wrote right here, there is still the matter of playoff seeding at stake. So, in my mind, there will be significance to this game regardless.
Assuming that the Eagles will be playing to win this game no matter what, here are my keys to the game…
1. Run Shady! There was no excuse for him only getting eight carries last week against Minny. This week features the No. 1 running back vs. the 32nd ranked run defense. This should be a no-brainer so I hope Chip Kelly doesn’t go all Andy Reid on us and try to outsmart everyone by passing the ball all game.
2. Win the time of possession. This goes hand-in-hand with running the ball. Chicago has an explosive offense facing an Eagles defense that was burned by the likes of Matt Cassel, Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson last week.
Chip Kelly has kind of annoyed me by pish-poshing the notion that time of possession matters. Hey Chip, it DOES matter. Especially when your defense is having trouble stopping the opposing offense.
To further illustrate the importance of controlling the ball and clock, check out this article by Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. I’d say there is certainly a correlation between time of possession and winning.
The Eagles’ best defense will be to keep the ball out of Chicago’s hands.
3. Pressure Jay Cutler. Seemingly unlike his backup, Cutler has a penchant for throwing interceptions. In what amounts to basically eight games played this year, he has 10 picks to go with his 16 touchdown passes.
If the Eagles can’t get pressure when rushing four, Bill Davis will need to get creative in generating a pass rush. If Cutler is allowed to just sit back in the pocket, our secondary will be eaten alive by the Bears’ prolific WR duo.
4. Win the battle on third-down defense. The winner of this game could be determined by which defense stinks the least. The Bears are brutal against the run but respectable against the pass. The Eagles are the reverse of that.
However, neither team is that great in getting off the field on third down. The Eagles are ranked 26th in third-down conversions with a 41.46 conversion percentage allowed by their defense. The Bears aren’t much better with a ranking of 21st and a 39.88 conversion percentage.
Last week the Eagles were especially bad in this area as they allowed the Vikings to convert on 61.54% of their third downs. That is, without a doubt, completely unacceptable. Funny enough, the Eagles appear to be worse on third downs the longer the conversion attempt is!
The Bears’ punter’s name is Adam Podlesh, let’s hope we get to see him as much as possible on Sunday night (unless the Bears decide to just turn the ball over, that’s good too!).
5. Start fast, finish fast. Prior to the Detroit game, the Eagles hadn’t scored an offensive touchdown in the previous seven weeks. They had shown a pattern of starting fast and jumping ahead only to have to sweat out a few comeback attemtps.
The past two weeks, the offense has started slow and allowed themselves to be put in a hole. Luckily, they were able to climb out of it in the snow versus the Lions but couldn’t quite get there against the Vikes.
For once, I’d like to see this team play a complete game.
Time of possession and converting red zone opportunities will be key factors for the Eagles in this game. They can’t trade field goals for touchdowns with an offense like Chicago’s. They also can’t allow the defense to keep going back on the field after several three-and-outs by the offense.
This game has the make up for a shootout. Both offenses can score and score quickly. The Bears’ offense in particular has no real weaknesses and can kill you from several different avenues.
The weakest spot on the Bears’ offense is the QB and getting him to turn the ball over. That has to be a big focus this week on defense. On defense, the obvious way to attack them is by running the ball…over and over and over again.
Last thing: Stop playing scared of the kick returners! Kick the ball off to Hester and let the coverage units do their job. Those short kickoffs last week were an embarrassment.