The Philadelphia Eagles are getting ready to take on Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears in Week 9 of the NFL season. The Bears will pose a different kind of challenge for the Eagles, are they up to the task?
Chicago is 4-3 and coming off of a bye week while the Eagles are coming off of their bestperformance of the season after dominating the Dallas Cowboys in Week 8. Both teams have had their struggles this season but are improving as of late.
Without question, running back Matt Forte is the player that makes the Bears’ offense go. He is their leading rusher and receiver and is making a good case for himself to be considered an elite player.
Through seven games, Forte has compiled 672 yards rushing and 419 yards receiving. He is averaging 155.8 all-purpose yards per game. The only thing lacking from his stats are touchdowns as he’s only scored a total of three all season.
Even though Forte is having a great season, the Bears still only rank 16th overall in rushing. They’ve only scored a total of five rushing touchdowns on the season and average 114.7 yards per game.
However, Forte is the type of running back that has the potential to kill the Eagles’ defense. Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz does a great job of devising ways to get him the ball in space.
Forte is an excellent receiver out of the back field and is dangerous on screen passes. He has great vision and is surprisingly fast once he hits the hole.
The Eagles’ linebackers will face their biggest test of the year and absolutely must tackle well in this game.
As for Jay Cutler and the Bears’ passing game, they rank 17th overall and average 222.7 yards per game. Cutler has thrown for 1,702 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions.
He’s also been sacked 21 times thus far and lost three fumbles. However, Cutler’s pass protection has improved lately as he’s only been sacked three times in the past two games.
Pass protection is important for Chicago because, just like Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, Cutler is the type of player who gets rattled easily once he starts taking hits. He is prone to making bad decisions with the football and will turn it over.
Although, it must be noted that Cutler played a pretty good game against the Eagles last year when he threw for 247 yards, four TDs and had a stellar passer rating of 146.2.
Of course, last year’s Eagles pass defense would have made JaMarcus Russell look like Dan Marino, but that’s besides the point. Jay Cutler is a capable QB and once he gets in a rhythm, he can be tough to stop.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears have slipped some as compared to years past. Currently, they’re ranked No. 23 in overall defense (yards). They’re 28th against the pass and 12th against the rush.
The Bears’ defense has only given up 150 points on the season, which is good for the No. 12 ranking in the league, and equates to an average of about 21 points per game.
However, against the three teams they’ve faced with a top 10 offense (New Orleans, Green Bay and Carolina), they gave up an average of almost 29 points per game.
Likewise, on offense the Bears have averaged 24 points per game this season. However, they have only faced two teams that have a defense ranked in the top half of the league (Detroit and New Orleans) and could only muster 13 points against each of them.
In case you didn’t know, the Eagles just happen to have the No.1 ranked offense and No. 11 ranked defense right now.
Therefore, going by these trends, the Eagles should win by a score of roughly 29-13. But we’ll call it 30-13, that just sounds better, doesn’t it?
With all that said, though, there is something a little worrisome about the Chicago Bears in recent years when they play the Eagles.
Since Andy Reid has been head coach, he has posted a 6-3 record against the Bears. Sounds good, right? Well, not really, because the three losses have come in the past four years.
The Bears have been somewhat of a thorn in the Eagles’ side lately as they seem to have the their number. Just like last year’s game, this will be another match-up between these two teams that could ultimately have playoff implications.
Every win counts in the NFL and that is especially true when it’s within the same division and/or conference. If the Eagles don’t win the division, they will likely be competing with the Bears for a wild card playoff spot.
So, how do they get this needed win? If they can duplicate last week’s performance against Dallas, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Otherwise, the Eagles’ best bet is to get a lead and force Cutler and the Bears to pass the ball. Jason Babin, Trent Cole and the defensive line should then be able to pressure him into mistakes and cause some turnovers.
The Bears’ wide receivers are nothing to write home about but you can’t sleep on them either. Cutler does a good job of spreading the ball around and finding the open guy. None of them are studs, but all are capable of doing damage if taken for granted.
Therefore, the secondary will have to make sure they don’t get a sudden case of narcolepsy this week.
Mike Martz is a very good offensive game planner and will get the best out of what he has. He will find weaknesses in the Eagles defense and exploit them. Matt Forte lining up as a wide receiver will be a scary sight in this contest, particularly in goal line situations.
The Eagles cannot let the Bears be able to run the ball and do play-action passing. Don’t let last week’s game fool you, the Eagles’ defense still allowed Dallas running back DeMarco Murray to average 9.3 yards per carry.
On the season, the Eagles’ defense is giving up an average of 5 yards per carry which ranks them at No. 28 in the NFL. The Washington game aside, this defense still needs to prove it can stop the run.
The wild card in this game could be Devin Hester. Not as much as a receiver but more as a punt and kick returner. The Eagles’ special teams have not been tested by a guy like Hester as of yet.
He already has scored two return touchdowns this season and is perhaps the most prolific return man in the history of the NFL. The Eagles cannot let Hester be a difference-maker in the game.
I don’t care if they need to rip his pants off, just make sure they tackle the guy!
With the improvement we’ve been seeing in the Eagles’ play as of late, they should win this game and get to 4-4 at the half-way point of their season.