The Bears have an extra day to stew on their week one loss to the Texans but now return to Chicago for their home opener.
The Philadelphia Eagles are coming to town, fresh off of a 29-10 win over the Cleveland Browns.
The Bears definitely don’t want to start 0-2 on a shortened week so let’s break down the Eagles.
Record: 1-0, tied for first in the NFC East
Bears all-time record vs.: 29-10-1
Last match up: 54-11 drubbing by the Eagles in week 16 of the 2013 season. The first sign the wheels were coming off the Trestman bus.
Historical match ups: The Bears have won four of the last six games against the Eagles going back to 2007. The teams have met three times in the playoffs, a 27-17 Eagles win in 1979, a 33-19 Eagles win in the final game in old Soldier Field following the miracle 2001 season and of course, the Fog Bowl, a 20-12 Bears win on New Years Eve in 1988.
Key injuries: CB Leodis McKelvin left last week’s game with a hamstring injury and is doubtful for Monday night. Zach Ertz injured his shoulder and is also doubtful to play.
Offense: The Eagles have a lot of new faces on their team with first-year coach Doug Pederson coming over from the Andy Reid coaching tree (think Philly regrets jettisoning him?) and brings with him rookie quarterback and second overall pick Carson Wentz. Last week the Eagles put up 403 total yards of offense, good enough to rank seventh in the league after one week of games. The 29 points they put up have them ranked eighth. Jordan Matthews led the Eagles in receiving with seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown while second-year wideout Nelson Agholor added four receptions, 57 yards and a TD of his own. Tight end Zach Ertz added six catches and 58 yards of his own to round out the bulk of their passing attack.
On the ground, Ryan Mathews had 22 carries for 77 yards (3.5 yards per carry) and a TD while Kenjon Barner and Darren Sproles added a combined nine carries and 54 yards for a total of 131 yards (4.1 YPC). Pederson’s attack was balanced (37 pass/32 run). Wentz had two rush attempts in the box score but I do not know if they were designed QB runs so those are left out of the run count. Wentz was sacked only twice by the Browns.
Defense: On account of allowing only 10 points to the Browns, the Eagles come to Chicago boasting the third-ranked defense in points allowed and fifth-ranked in yards allowed. Philly notched three sacks of Robert Griffin III last week, one each by Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox. Vinny Curry is also lurking but did not appear in the box score last week. Safeties Malcom Jenkins and Rodney McLeod anchor the secondary behind CBs Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll. With McKelvn shelved, Ron Brooks will likely be the next man up for the Eagles’ secondary. Rookie Jalen Mills will also see some action. McLeod picked off RGIII in week one.
Key match ups: This is once again a dangerous defensive line. While not necessarily the Texans as far as pure speed and firepower, Barwin, Graham, Curry and Cox combined for 26.5 sacks last season and had a nice start last week. The defensive coordinator is Jim Schwartz, no stranger to Bears fans from his time as the Lions head coach whose teams had a tendency to play a little dirty. Schwartz is an adept coordinator who uses a variety of fronts to bring pressure and get after QBs. He is known to deploy a “Wide 9” front often but that is about as ubiquitous with his defense as the Cover 2 was in Chicago under Lovie Smith. It’s there, but not all the time.
Schwartz didn’t choose to blitz Robert Griffin III very often, according to ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio, bringing extra rushers only five times. That could change against Chicago for a number of reasons, starting with the fact that the Bears’ OL didn’t fare so well a week ago and has a still-learning interior. However, the Eagles’ line has no trouble getting after QBs without the extra helps.
It’s going to be about the Bears getting their WRs in favorable match ups. Without McKelvin, the Eagles will have a back-up CB on the outside but Alshon Jeffery will likely see a lot of Nolan Carroll. Kevin White will get a chance to line up against a back up CB and Eddie Royal should have a good shot working against rookie Jalen Mills.
On defense the Bears are going to want to bring pressure. Carson Wentz played well against last week (more on that in a minute) but the Bears struggled to get pressure last week and it’s the best way to test a rookie QB. Ertz being injured helps the Bears, as one of Wentz’s favorite targets is shelved but Agholor and Matthews are both dangerous receivers. Look for Vic Fangio to try and bring pressure up the middle to force Wentz outside. Fangio is going to want to throw a variety of looks and fronts at the rookie and see how the rookie handles it. Expect a lot of blitz looks that turn into drops and delayed blitzes, etc. Fangio is no slouch in game planning.
What to watch for: The Bears need to get off to a strong start at home, having had very bad home slates for the last two seasons. The Bears are going to stick to their plan every week; run the ball, work in play action and some downfield plays. They are going to look to win time of possession.
On defense they are going to want to try to get after Wentz and force him into mistakes. He looked the part last week, but was playing against a bad Cleveland team. The Eagles have some good weapons in the passing game, while their rushing game is hardly imposing. Ideally the Bears would shut down Ryan Mathews and force the Eagles to throw and get away from their balanced approach.
The Bears got off to a nice start last week before fading, they will need to play all 60 minutes this week and keep their foot down. The offense looked bad last week, particularly along the line and things might not get easier this week but there will be chances to attack the secondary of the Eagles.
Key stats: According to ESPN Stats and Information, Wentz was 8-for-8 against the blitz last week. For the Bears, Jay Cutler’s record against Jim Schwartz defenses is 7-4 with 17 TDs and only 7 INTs.
How do you like the Bears’ chances Monday night?