A change in the title is something usually reserved for repeat matchups, such as a divisional foe. However, when that foe is the Philadelphia Eagles, who we seem to face every single freaking year, it may as well be a de facto divisional matchup. Thus, the title change to PTMY is pretty appropriate in my opinion, especially given what's at stake this week.
We had a fair amount of fun watching the Eagles stumble out of the gate at 1-4, but they've won their last two as we have, and sit at 3-4 in a beat-em-up, yet weaker NFC East, behind a now-decidedly unsteady New York Giants (hanging on against the Bills and Dolphins) team and after a convincing win over the "Somebody's Team" Dallas Cowboys. Let's hit the jump and take a look at our annual enemies...
What'd They Do Last Year: 10-6, won the NFC East; lost to the Green Bay Packers 21-16 in the Wild Card round.
So Far This Year: 3-4, in a three-way tie for second in the NFC East behind the 5-2 New York Giants, and coming off a two-game winning streak against the Redskins and Cowboys.
When Last We Met: Oh, I'm sure we all remember this one. Claims were made, accusations were heard, insults were bandied about, people were banned, FanPosts were spawned, and the Bears won in convincing fashion 31-26, in a game far more decided than the score would indicate.
What's At Stake: The Bears come in at 4-3, while the Eagles come in at 3-4. A Bears win pushes them to 5-3, to a game behind the Lions for second in the North and maintaining the #6 wild card position while gaining yet another tiebreaker edge over a potential wild card team. An Eagles win pushes the Bears down to .500 (again), two games behind the Lions and giving the Eagles the tiebreaker edge (which they'd use immediately, vaulting ahead at 4-4 on top of the then-4-4 Bears). It'd open the #6 slot up to the Falcons [at Colts] and Bucs [at Saints], which with Falcons and Bucs losses would create a small mosh pit at the #6 slot at 4-4.
The Eagles offense is loaded with playmakers - the big difference between this and last year's offenses in my opinion is a better ability to run the ball. Andy Reid has historically been a Martzian playcaller, with some of the most-decided pass/run splits in history, and last season even with Vick the ball was still put in the air with regularity - with the receivers at his disposal, can you blame him? But LeSean McCoy has quietly emerged as another explosive option on a dangerous offense behind a line that is pretty decent in run-blocking. He finished last season with 1,080 rushing yards and another 592 receiving, and this year he's on pace to finish with 1,723 yards rushing. He's in the Forte mold of being able to contribute in both aspects of the offense, though not quite as good in protection, and he's catching two fewer passes per game than he did last year. However, in the last two games, both wins, he's picked up 28 and 30 carries, respectively, and when he's run for 100 this year, the Eagles are 3-1. Obviously the receivers (DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin) and Michael Vick are guys to worry about, but McCoy has to be added to that list on a team that has to move the ball to win.
Systematically, the Eagles were far more reliant on the big play the last couple years than they are this year, and Brent Celek hasn't played a big a role as he did in his breakout campaign of 2009. However, there's the Bears' track record of handling (or not) tight ends this season, and last year he had 3 catches for 50 yards and a TD.
Most of the additions on the Eagles' dream offseason were on the defensive side of the ball, adding Jason Babin (and his already-obscene 9 sacks) to an already somewhat-dangerous defensive line, unloading Kevin Kolb for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (and a draft pick? Robbery.) and signing Nnamdi Asomugha (yes, I triple-checked that) to shore up an average defense last season. The biggest difference between the Eagles' wins and losses, though, is the rush defense. The Eagles' first five games each allowed over 100 yards, and four of them above 130. In the last two games, the Eagles have allowed 127 rushing yards combined to the Redskins and Cowboys. Historically the Eagles were a heavy-blitz-from-everywhere team, but they seem to have backed off that this season as non-defensive linemen have a grand total of zero sacks this year. The front four, between pass-rush ends Trent Cole and Babin, have been great this year, and beware of J'Marcus Webb in pass protection... They run the Wide Nine.
The linebacking corps has been the weak spot of the Eagles' defense in terms of being able to stop the run, and when the Bears want to run, they've been able to, especially with the fullback Clutts lead-blocking. But with the pass-rush the Eagles are able to generate, running at the middle may be what the Eagles want.
If the Bears do this...
The Bears offense will have to use Forte and shorter routes to go against that linebacker corps - I'm not sure I'd trust Hester to pull that 50-yard-split-the-coverage trick against the Eagles' pass rush (time) and two of the better corners in the league (skill) - although he did have a 39-yard completion last year so I could be proven wrong. Earl Bennett could come back this week, and he had two touchdowns against the Eagles last year - the underneath routes will be key for the offense to get going.
If the Eagles do this...
This might be the fastest receiving corps the Bears will face all year, and for a team that's had safety issues for a good portion of the year, that's bad, but a good test for the young safeties on the roster, namely Chris Conte and Major Wright. Play too far deep, and McCoy can gain some yardage underneath; play too shallow, and Jackson and Maclin can burn this defense. The linebackers seem to have made a comeback, as like the Eagles, the Bears allowed at least 100 yards rushing each of their first five, but the last two games have allowed 83 rushing yards combined to the Vikings and Buccaneers. If the linebackers (Briggs and Urlacher) can maintain their gaps and stop McCoy (and a scrambling Vick), the safeties will be able to help cover Maclin and Jackson over the top. Vick is always a scary player to face, but the Bears have done as good a job as any of slowing him down in his career.