The Bears woke up on Tuesday morning to find themselves in sole possession of first place in the NFC North. I'm not sure how many people thought that was a possibility two weeks ago; I know I wasn't one of them - heck, there's audio proof of it. But now the Bears are in a position where they can keep hold of it for two more weeks, and with losses by both the Lions and Packers this week, the Bears may well be able to clinch the division with a win on Sunday night. To do that, they need to face down the Philadelphia Eagles.
Last Year: 4-12, finishing last in the NFC East.
This Year: So far they've gone from worst to first in the division, sitting at 8-6 and in first place in the NFC East.
When Last We Met: Remember when we could just say "Well last year..." like the Eagles were a de-facto divisional foe? Not so much, since the two teams didn't play last year. In 2011, the Eagles met the Bears on Monday Night Football in week 9, and the Bears pulled ahead in the fourth quarter to take down the Eagles 30-24.
Total Yardage: 5,796 (2nd)
Total Points: 364 (7th)
Passing Yardage: 3656 (10th)
Rushing Yardage: 2140 (1st)
There's one number there that scares me more than any other and is the primary reason I picked against the Bears this week (yes, I'm aware of the crap Taylor's given me and Sam for our downer picks). And while the Bears allowed the Browns to only pick up 93 yards (the fourth opponent they've held under 100 rushing yards), their track record prior to taking on the Browns is just too rough for me to ignore.
LeSean McCoy has been great this year, as has Nick Foles since taking over for Michael Vick. Chip Kelly knows how to operate an offense in Philadelphia, and after a rough start in losing five of their first eight, they've gone 5-1 in their last six and only because the Vikings forgot for a brief couple of weeks that they are in fact the Vikings. The Eagles have run for 124, 204, 126, 105, and 299 in their last five wins, and only ran for 79 against the Vikings. In their prior two games where they didn't reach 100 yards rushing, they only scored ten points, combined. The Eagles need to run the ball to balance out their offense; when they do, it brings some pretty good fireworks.
Foles has had a great year since taking over, and he's had to do it with Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn on IR all year. But DeSean Jackson's picked up a lot of the slack with his 75 receptions for 1275 yards and 9 touchdowns. Riley Cooper's filled in as the number two in Maclin's absence, posting seven touchdowns and 743 yards of his own. And tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek are both chipping in at just shy of 400 yards and 4 touchdowns each.
Total Yardage: 5633 (30th)
Total Points: 349 (17th)
Passing Yardage: 4082 (31st)
Rushing Yardage: 1551 (16th)
Defensively, the Eagles' numbers are skewed by a couple of things - facing the most passing attempts in the league as well as the sixth-most rushing attempts in the league. That leads to rate stats that are better than they really should be, but they also point to an inability to stop teams on third down (or many other downs).
They're switching to a 3-4 defense this season, which means the usual arrangement of blitzes from every possible position at times. Trent Cole's stood up from his former 4-3 end spot and has picked up five sacks this year, to go with Connor Barwin's five and DeMeco Ryans' four. As a whole, they have 32 sacks this year, with twelve players notching the sack column. Eight players have made tally marks in the interceptions column, led by defensive back Brandon Boykin with four and Cary Williams with 3.
If the Bears do this...
Stretch the field. The Eagles' pass defense leaves a lot to be desired; if the Bears can turn the game into a shootout instead of a front-7-dependent game, they stand a much better chance.
If the Eagles do this...
The Eagles, on the other hand, want this to be a front seven game, so they can make the most of what they've done with LeSean McCoy all season.
The Bears will know by gametime if they're playing to clinch the division or not. And come Sunday night, they could well be the champs.