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Bears vs. Eagles: Wild Card weekend Mailbag

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The Bears are preparing for their first playoff game in eight seasons. You’ve got questions about the biggest game in years and we’ve got answers.

Chicago Bears v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images
NFL: DEC 30 Bears at Vikings

After eight long years, it’s finally time. The Chicago Bears are in the playoffs and hosting that game at Soldier Field, where it has magically become a sizable home field advantage. It’s been a pretty miraculous season overall, finishing (12-4), but sadly that record won’t lead to a first round bye.

Even so, the Bears opened as a (-5.5) favorite over the Philadelphia Eagles (that number has since climbed to 6), who needed the Bears help to get into the playoffs. Because of those odds, the Bears are actually the heaviest favored team in the opening round of the playoffs.

All in all, the Bears have had a season to remember and an incredible seven-game turnaround. But with that, the expectations have changed, and I think I speak for most when I say a first round loss would be somewhat of a disappointment after such a breakout season. The good news? I don’t see that as likely on Sunday, but for more on this weekend’s game, let’s dive into the first edition of the playoff Bears mailbag.

This could absolutely be recency bias on my part, but I truly believe that the 2018 version of the Bears may be slightly better than the one that made it to the Super Bowl in 2006. Here’s where:

  • Better overall offense. I’d take Mitchell Trubisky and the offensive minds surrounding this staff.
  • Similar defense (better if you look at Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings).

The issue is that the Bears won’t have home field advantage, outside of likely their first game. That’s where the big issue (for me) comes in. It is worth noting that this year’s defense may carry more value because of the offensive uptick we’ve seen in 2018.

I truly believe this 2018 version of the Bears is more than talented enough to win a Super Bowl. Hell, they are a top three team in the NFL this year. I just wonder if a lack of experience and them not having home field advantage will be a bigger issue.

The short answer is, no.

A few years back, the NFL changed their rules to where each NFL team could return/designate two players from injured reserve. The problem? The Bears chose their two in both tight end Adam Shaheen and right guard Kyle Long.

So, because of that, Bryce Callahan is not eligible to come off injured reserve.

At least from what I’ve been told, yes. The plan appears to be resting him as long as possible (two games and either a practice or two this week), but ultimately they are expecting him to play on Sunday.

Much like they’ve handled their key injured players all season, they’ve played it safe, and I expect them to handle this the same way.

Realistically, he could probably use another week or so off, but the entire reason they’ve being sitting him and playing it carefully is so he can play on Sunday. It’s also worth noting that Jackson is out of his walking boot. I’d expect him to play Sunday, but Friday’s practice will tell the real story.

I think it’s more than fair for people to either be worried about Trubisky’s performance on Sunday or at least be curious. I mean, let’s face it... He hasn’t exactly been great in prime time spotlights. Whether that was in Week 1, 2, 11 or 14.

With that in mind, it’s worth noting that Trubisky has been playing consistently better over the past three games, even if it’s been in more of a game manager role.

Here’s how I feel about him. If he can limit turnovers, throw for 220-250 yards-per-game and continue to have good success on third-down, they will be in very good shape. Not only will this give the defense some margin for error, but it will keep the offense’s timely scoring intact.

In a lot of ways, I truly believe the Bears have maxed out their potential in Year One of Matt Nagy’s offense, but even so, they have a knack for scoring when they need it the most. If this offense can score 22-25 points-per-game, it’s going to be hard to beat them. A lot of that will call for Trubisky to play at his current level and I think that’s more than possible.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the Bears have more than 15 players on their current roster that have been in the playoffs before.

A few of those include Super Bowl winners like Danny Trevathan, Prince Amukamara and Trey Burton. Other key players like Akiem Hicks and Taylor Gabriel have either had playoff or Super Bowl experience as well.

On top of that, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has coached in a Super Bowl, and Nagy has coached in multiple playoff games, including last year.

Like Nagy talked about on Monday, playoff experience is important, but they have enough players and leaders on this team that have been there, that they can speak on it and help the players who haven’t.

Make no mistake, the Eagles are an experienced team, but the Bears are the more talented team and more importantly, the home team.

I would be somewhat surprised, but we’ll see.

Keep in mind, the reason that he and Kevin White got their chances in Week 17 was due to injury. Allen Robinson II sat out the game, and both Anthony Miller and Gabriel left during the game with injuries.

Wims will have a role on this team moving forward into 2019, and I still think he can provide something as a mid-level receiver, but at least in regards to this year, Josh Bellamy is more likely to see a bigger role that Wims.

In my weekly game pick for Windy City Gridiron, I took the Bears in a 24-20 game.

Some may look at this score and wonder why I am projecting it to be close and here’s why.

The Eagles are an experienced team and are somewhat hot. Obviously the Bears are too, as evidenced by their (9-1) mark over their last 10 games. Even so, I think that there will be some “growing pains” in this game for a young Bears team.

I also think that it may take the Bears a bit of time to get things going. Whether that’s a quick score by the Eagles or not, I think they may face some adversity early.

I do think the Bears will gain control of the game around half time, get up to a decent lead and then the Eagles will score late to make it look closer than it really was. But long story short, I believe the Bears win on Sunday.