In the final game of Wild Card Weekend today, the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles take on one of the biggest threats to their championship defense, the surging Chicago Bears (4.40 PM ET, Sunday).
There is no denying that this year has been a tough one for Eagles. Following the euphoria of the first Super Bowl win in franchise history, the team entered this season with high expectations, most of which were not met. Close losses coupled with some tough injuries and a lack of a balanced offense kept the Eagles at arms-length. Then, a loss to the Dallas Cowboys in week 14, seemed to seal the team’s fate, as making the playoffs was considered a longshot. The Eagles needed to win out against two division winners and more. The team got it all and booked their return to the postseason in the most improbable of ways.
For the Bears, their 2018 season also came with its own surprises. Only instead of being surprisingly average like the Eagles, Chicago was unexpectedly really good. The Bears, after winning just five games a year prior, finished with the NFC’s third best record. They were 12-4. Additionally, the Bears had the best 10 game stretch of any team to end the season as they went 9-1 to close out the year. Everything clicked for Chicago as they won their first NFC North crown since 2010, when they reached the NFC Championship.
Can Nick Foles Do It Again?
In some ways, the déjà vu for the Philadelphia Eagles started as early as the first game of the NFL season when they defeated the Atlanta Falcons in almost identical fashion to how they had in the playoffs the year prior. So given how the year began, it’s almost no surprise that the déjà vu reappeared toward the end of this season, in week 13. In 2017, Carson Wentz got injured in week 13 leaving the door open for Nick Foles’ magical stretch. In 2018, Wentz got injured in week 13 leaving the door open for Foles once again. Backs against the wall, playoffs nearly out of reach, Foles’ magic picked up where it had left off as he led the Eagles to three victories in three elimination games. It was essentially the playoffs before the playoffs and Foles was at peak performance. Now the question remains, can he strike lightning in a bottle twice?
The answer is yes, of course it could happen. In order for Foles to bring the Lombardi back to Philadelphia for the second year in a row, he will have a harder journey than he did a year prior.
For starters, the Eagles are the sixth seed in the NFC meaning they won’t see a home playoff game. Last year, they were the first and the road through the conference went through them. Home field advantage is a tricky thing but for the Eagles, who were 7-1 at home (with the one loss coming in the season finale where the starters didn’t play), it certainly made the difference. Foles will face stiff competition just like last year, but he won’t have the benefit of the Philly faithful, which is certainly something to consider.
Repeating as champions is hard enough as is but Philly’s road without home field advantage is certainly daunting. Soldier Field historically has been one of the hardest stadiums for road teams to play in and that goes double for this year. The Bears lost just one game at home in 2018, against the New England Patriots in overtime.
That’s not even to mention the matchup Foles faces in his first game, less than a week removed from bruised ribs he suffered in the season finale against the Washington Redskins. Defensively, the Bears ranked third in the NFL in total yards allowed and first in points allowed, just 17.7. The Bears were also third in sacks with 50, which is the most of any NFC team. That averages out to just over three sacks per game. Chicago is absolutely going to bring the pressure and with Foles already nursing an injury, it might not take much to knock him out of the game or really throw off his rhythm. If Chicago can do that, the Foles magic will finally come to an end.
What to Expect from Mitch Trubisky in his Playoff Debut
The maturation of Mitch Trubisky, Chicago’s first overall pick from the 2017 NFL Draft, has been a good one. After finishing a somewhat average season in his rookie year, Trubisky responded by putting together great numbers in year two. He threw for 24 touchdowns, over 3,200 yards and recorded a QB rating of 95.4.
More importantly however, the 24-year-old grew as a leader. Trubisky took the team in his own hands this year and really showed great signs of growth throughout the year. The next step in that process is to see how the young QB handles himself in the postseason. When previewing the AFC game, I talked a little bit about the history of rookie quarterbacks and postseason performance. Fortunately for Trubisky, things aren’t nearly as bleak for second year signal callers. In fact, several sophomore QBs have played in and some have even won Super Bowl championships. Things would seem promising for Trubisky then right? Well, it’s not quite that simple. While second year QBs have won more playoff games than their rookie counterparts, most of these QBs have done so after being the rookie QBs to lose the year prior. It’s rare that QBs in their first playoff game, much as Trubisky will be today, pick up the victory.
So what to expect from Trubisky? It somewhat depends on the Eagles defense, which has been just about as good as the Bears lately. Philadelphia dealt with a lot of injuries, especially in their secondary this year and that really hurt the team early on. Lately, Jim Schwartz’ crew has been all business, allowing just 4.8 yards per play over the last three games, which is good enough for fifth best in the NFL.
The Eagles have also allowed opposing teams just two passing touchdowns over the last three games, two of which came when facing Deshaun Watson (26 TD) and Jared Goff (32). They also have a season long, NFL-best TD scoring percentage (44%) for opposing teams in the red zone. That makes this unit a very dangerous matchup for the Bears and for Trubisky.
Our Betting Preview’s Philadelphia Eagles vs Chicago Bears Predictions & Picks Verdict
In many ways, this is one of the most intriguing matchups of the weekend. It would seem the Bears are the easy pick, entering as 6.5 point favorites with the American-friendly NFL oddsmakers. The Eagles thrived as underdogs last year, winning each of their playoff games in that role. Of course, as mentioned, they did so at home, but that doesn’t mean that Foles’ magic won’t transcend to the road.
The biggest thing to watch for is going to be early on. Trubisky is making a playoff debut so it might take him a few drives to really get into rhythm. That’s a positive for the Eagles who will look to take advantage of Trubisky’s youth and inexperience. They will also look to keep Foles off the ground, which is going to be no easy task for this offensive line which has had its ups and downs this year. All that being said, this one could go either way as both teams have the tools to advance to next week and a matchup with the New Orleans Saints. However we know what we like with the sportsbooks, so here are the Philadelphia Eagles vs Chicago Bears predictions for this NFL playoff preview:
- The first of our picks is to take the Eagles +6.5pts on the spread @ -110 with any of Bovada, Intertops, BetOnline or Bookmaker.
- Look for the under on the weekend’s lowest total of 41.5pts @ -109 with Bookmaker.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.