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Week 11 Preview: Eagles (5-4) @ Bears (4-5)

The Bears get to "show off" once again on national TV Sunday night vs the Eagles. Maybe the rest of the country will learn from last Thursday night's ugliness, and watch something else.

Week 11 Recap

The Eagles: Donovan McNabb threw for an incredible 450 yards, but the Eagles were trading field goals for touchdowns and lost on the road to San Diego 31-23. That's the second trip Philly has made coast-to-coast this year, and they've lost both contests (losing also to the terrible Raiders in week 6). With McNabb completing 35 of 55 throws... Jason Avant (8), DeSean Jackson (8), Jeremy Maclin (6) and Brent Celek (6) each caught at least 6 passes.  Neither defense had much of an impact in this game, as both McNabb and his counterpart Phillip Rivers (20/25, 231, 131.8 QB rating) had plenty of time to throw. The biggest news of the game was Brian Westbrook's second concussion in recent weeks, which could threaten to end his season. 

The Bears: Jay Cutler and company embarrassed themselves on prime time television again... this time in an ugly 10-6 road loss to the 49ers on Thursday night. The Bears defense actually put up a very strong effort, holding the 49ers to just 216 yards of total offense. But, Jay Cutler threw 5 friggin interceptions, including one in the end zone with time expiring, failing at chance to win the game. As if the game wasn't bad enough, there were 19 penalties called between the two teams, giving viewers plenty of time to complain about the previous Cutler interception. One of the lone bright spots was Zachary Bowman, who had his 3rd INT in his last 5 games... however, he left the game with abdominal injury and never returned.   

Quick Numbers:

  • 17: Jay Cutler INTs on the year.
  • 194: Receiving yards for Matt Forte in the last two weeks. 
  • 46: Receptions for TE Brent Celek, leading the Eagles in that category.
  • 29: Sacks by the Eagle defense, tied for second in the NFL.

Key Injuries:

PHI RB Brian Westbrook (concussion) O
PHI WR Kevin Curtis (knee) O 

CHI C Olin Kreutz (back) Q


When the Eagles have the ball.
Donovan McNabb is enjoying more weapons than he's ever had in his long career as QB of the Eagles. Second year WR DeSean Jackson has been among the most explosive playmakers in the NFL this season, and rookie 1st round pick Jeremy Maclin is proving to be an exceptional threat himself. In past years, RB Brian Westbrook was the man McNabb would lean on, but in an injury plagued season, Westbrook's targets are going to TE Brent Celek, who leads the Eagles in receptions. Filling in for Westbrook is rookie LeSean McCoy, who now leads the team in rushing and also has 23 catches. This is a very potent offense... led by a great QB: exactly the kind of team that exposes the Bears defense (see the first half of the Bengals and Cardinals games). With the Bears pass rush disappearing after week 4, McNabb will have plenty of time to throw the football. The one trouble spot for the Eagles has been running in the red zone (sound familiar?). In fact, the last time these two teams met, the Bears put up a key goal line stand late in the 4th quarter to win the game.



The key match-up for the Eagles: WR DeSean Jackson vs the Bears safeties
Jackson is second in the NFL at 18.3 yards per catch... because he beats safety help every week. The Bears play a lot of cover 2, and rely on their safeties to limit big plays. I see the Bears safeties getting a big serving of burnt toast this Sunday night.

The X factor on offense for the Eagles: WR Jeremy Maclin
The rookie receiver has been gaining the trust of his QB and getting more and more involved. He's another explosive player, who should pose big match-up concerns vs the Bears safeties.


When the Bears have the ball.
This is now officially a one-dimensional offense... as Matt Forte's 194 receiving yards in the last two weeks has waived the white flag on the running game. No run game vs a blitz heavy defense that is tied for second in the NFL with 29 sacks is a very, very bad match-up. Not having to worry about the run, the Eagles can blitz at will vs Cutler and his porous O-line. Expect to see Dez Clark on the field plenty in this one, to aid in pass protection vs the Eagles blitz. The Bears can counter the blitz with a big dose of screen passes to Matt Forte, and if they can pick up the blitz, it could create opportunities for speedsters Devin Hester and Johnny Knox to get open vs less men in the secondary.

The key match-up for the Bears: LT Orlando Pace vs DE Trent Cole
Cole leads the Eagles with 7.5 sacks, and Pace has been losing some favor with the fans and media, despite (in my account) a solid, if unspectacular performance. 

The X Factor on offense for the Bears: WR Devin Aromashodu
This spot is usually reserved for Greg Olsen, but Jay Cutler has been campaigning to get his favorite pre-season target on the field more often.  Let's see if that helps Jay in the red zone.... not.


Side notes from the NFC North:

Vikings: Division leading Minnesota will host the Seahawks on Sunday. This could be another cakewalk for them, but watch out for a re-juvinated Seattle running game behind Justin Forsett, vs a Vikings D allowing 4.2 yards per carry. 

Lions: The Lions and Browns square off in the battle of crud near the lake in Detroit on Sunday. Nobody needs to watch this game. And if you're starting someone in fantasy football... you've already lost. 

Packers: Aaron Rodgers was sacked another 4 times last week by the Cowboys, boosting the league leading total to 41. This Sunday, the 49ers will get their turn in Lambeau.