With playoff football finally back in Chicago, the Bears will be aiming for a different outcome than the last postseason game played at Soldier Field in 2010.
On a frigid afternoon, the Bears dropped a defensive battle to the Green Bay Packers after injured Jay Cutler was replaced by backup quarterback Caleb Hanie.
Now, the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles come to town for a wild-card matchup, a team in which Chicago has a rich playoff history with.
The prior history between the two teams doesn’t mean much as far as the 2018 playoffs are concerned. However, given the outcomes of the previous games, they are still interesting to reminisce on.
The Eagles dominated the Bears in the 2001 divisional round, winning by a score of 33-19 on the road to break the hearts of hopeful Chicago fans.
In 1988, the Bears defeated the Eagles in the renowned “Fog Bowl”. The strange weather in Chicago made this game unforgettable. Players could barely see 10 yards in front of them, and fans had trouble witnessing what was going on in the game resulting from the thick layer of fog on the field.
Finally, the Eagles bested the Bears at home in 1977 in the first playoff matchup between the two teams.
The average margin of victory in a Bears-Eagles playoff game has been 11 points.
Both teams are playing the best football they have all season right now. So, a closer game than history indicates can be expected. As of now, Chicago is favored by 5.5 points over Philadelphia.
By no means will Philly be an easy out. Regardless, the Bears have to like their odds given that the game will be played at home. Chicago does an exceptional job at dictating the pace of games played at Soldier Field.
The Bears went 7-1 at home in the regular season and will be as amped up as ever with their faithful fans backing them during a postseason game.
Keys to victory for Chicago.
Just like any other game so far this season, defense comes first for the Bears.
The resurgence of quarterback Nick Foles is making this Eagles team look more and more like the Super Bowl Champs from last season.
Foles is extremely confident right now and will not be taken lightly by the Bears’ D. Chicago will need to bring pressure right off the bat. Whether this results in a few sacks or not, ideally doing so will at least disrupt Foles’ rhythm.
There is no reason to believe the Bears won’t be able to achieve this. Philly has scored a bit more often with Foles under center. However, its scoring offense still ranks only 18th best in the NFL.
Chicago has had little trouble silencing significantly more talented offenses, such as the Rams’. Stopping the production of Philly’s offense will be far from the most difficult task Chicago’s D has had to achieve this season.
Especially considering the Eagles rely on big plays, and the Bears surrender very few of those, Philly may find it tough to assemble successful drives all afternoon.
A stout defensive performance by Chicago can be anticipated. But, that doesn’t mean the Eagles aren’t going to score. With the extra motivation resulting from it being the playoffs, there is a chance Philly scores a little more than they would in a regular season game between the teams.
So, regardless of how the D performs, the Bears are going to need to put some points on the board as well. I’d say at least 20 to be safe.
Of course, that all starts with Trubisky. Mainly, in Trubisky making the right decisions and not turning the ball over. If Chicago’s quarterback doesn’t throw any picks, one has to love the Bears’ chances of winning.
The Eagles have a decent defense, headlined by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and safety Malcolm Jenkins.
Philly’s D is exploitable though. Besides Jenkins, the Eagles’ defensive backfield isn’t spectacular. If Mitch has at least two of his three starting wideouts back, he should be able to move the ball through the air.
Jordan Howard is coming off of his most productive outing of the season. The third-year running back is playing his best football at a perfect time. Howard coming to life has added another dynamic to Chicago’s offense.
The running back picking up where he left off will make it even more difficult for Philly’s D to shut Chicago down.
Additionally, to address to elephant in the room, Cody Parkey needs to be locked in. Missing field goals obviously can be a major momentum-shifter. Even more so in a playoff game.
Plain and simple, Parkey needs to make his kicks, specifically early on and in crucial circumstances. If Parkey were to miss one, ideally it would be later in the game with the Bears already holding a decently comfortable league.
But, if Parkey squanders an opportunity to gain an early lead, or give Chicago three points it desperately needs in a close game late, that could doom the Bears on Sunday.
Chicago Bears injury updates.
Chicago has quite a few players whose statuses for Sunday’s game are still up in the air.
Offensively, three starting wide receivers in Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, and Taylor Gabriel are listed as questionable. On the defensive end, Pro Bowl safety Eddie Jackson, as well as outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, are questionable.
We will obviously learn more about the status of each player as Sunday approaches. However, it is worth noting that Bears’ head coach Matt Nagy likes where the majority of those players are at.
Before practice on Wednesday, Nagy was quoted saying “they’re in a good spot with us. I feel good with where they are at” in regards to his three injured wideouts.
My gut tells me sitting out the Minnesota contest with an injured back will be enough for Chicago’s top receiver, Allen Robinson, to play on Sunday.
Gabriel will most likely suit up as well. “Turbo” left in the middle of the Vikings game after aggravating his shoulder. The move very well could have been precautionary, since there was no reason to risk Gabriel going on to injure himself more severely.
Turbo still probably isn’t at 100 percent. But, this is the playoffs, not the regular season. 80 percent is good enough the play in the postseason.
The same thought can be applied to Eddie Jackson’s sore ankle. The safety most likely isn’t at 100 percent either. However, he’s close enough to full health to warrant a start. After all, Chicago absolutely will need his contributions.
The two players I don’t see playing are Miller and Lynch. Miller dislocated his shoulder during the opening minutes of the Minnesota game, the same shoulder he injured earlier this year.
Even though Nagy likes where he is at, it is difficult to imagine Miller suiting up against Philly.
As for Lynch, the linebacker’s elbow sprain turned out to be much worse than initially believed. He was doubtful for both the San Francisco and Minnesota games.
Out of all of the Bears’ injured players, Chicago probably needs Lynch to play the least. So, Nagy probably won’t rush him back into action, even for a playoff game.
- Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Eddie Herz is a senior journalism major at Colorado State University. He has been a beat reporter for CSU's newspaper, the Rocky Mountain Collegian, since he was a freshman. Eddie has also contributed to the BTPowerhouse.com, a sister website of SBnation. Eddie will be the CSU Football beat reporter for the Rocky Mountain Collegian this coming Fall.
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