Eagles-Bears preview

September 16th, 2016 by Kyle Lutz | Filed under Eagles, Football, General, NFL.

Location- Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
Weather- 81 and sunny
Time/Channel- 8:30 PM ET, ESPN
Point Spread + Over-Under Line- Bears by 3, O/U 42 1/2

Injury Report

Eagles

Leodis McKelvin (cornerback)- questionable (hamstring)
Zach Ertz (tight end)- doubtful (ribs)

Bears

Kyle Fuller (cornerback)- questionable (knee)

After an impressive debut last Sunday by rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, the Eagles held off the below-average Browns 29-10. The Eagles’ defense held Robert Griffin, III, in his debut with Cleveland, to a 55 quarterback rating and a 46% completion percentage (12/26, 190 yards). This Monday, they’ll face Jay Cutler, who took a beating last week at Houston. Cutler was average vs. the Texans’ passing defense, as he completed 55% of his pass attempts, had a yards-per-attempt rating of 7.4, and had a TD-INT ratio of 1-1.

(Jay Cutler, AP Photo)

(Jay Cutler, AP Photo)

Last year, Houston’s pass defense ranked third best in fewest passing yards allowed per pass attempt, at 5.7, while Philadelphia’s ranked 18th. However, with the addition of new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and free-agent strong safety Rodney McLeod, the Eagles’ defense has shown some improvements. Last year with St. Louis, McLeod, among all safeties, ranked fourth best in tackling and ninth best in coverage. Last game, in his first game with the Eagles, McLeod intercepted Griffin for five yards, after Jordan Hicks tipped it.

In the game, the Eagles sacked Griffin three times, while defensive end Brandon Graham was credited with three quarterback hurries. In 15 games last season, Cutler was sacked 29 times, and 38 times the year before. In 2015, Eagles’ quarterbacks (Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez) were sacked a total of 37 times. Point being, this game could very well come down to defense and the front four.

If the Eagles’ secondary can not only regularly knock down Cutler, but control and be effective vs. Bears’ Pro Bowl wide-out Alshon Jeffery, it’ll significantly improve their chances of winning. Versus Houston, Jeffery had 105 yards, and four receptions, including a 54 yarder. As for other match-ups, Carson Wentz could have a field day vs. the Bears’ secondary. Pro Football Focus ranked the Bears’ defensive backs as the 26th best unit in the league, ranking barely better than the Eagles, who ranked 29th. Keep in mind that article was published before corner Eric Rowe was shipped to New England. On Sunday, versus an average Browns’ secondary, Wentz compiled 278 passing yards and two touchdown passes.

(Carson Wentz, AP Photo)

(Carson Wentz, AP Photo)

Key match-up

-Nolan Carroll vs. Alshon Jeffery

Yesterday afternoon, Carroll spoke to NJ.com’s Advanced Media reporter Matt Lombardo about the Jeffery match-up.

“He’s a big, physical type receiver. He’s a guy that’s like a basketball-type guy. Jay Cutler kind of likes to just launch the ball up and let him play rebound basketball against a corner because he has that much faith in him. His catch radius is amazing. He has a big wing-span which gives him the ability to just go up over corners and get the ball.”

Offense

In his last 10 games, Jeffery has 58 receptions, 912 receiving yards, 15.7 yards per catch, and four touchdowns. In four of those games, he eclipsed the 100+ receiving yards mark. Last year at home, although he didn’t throw very many touchdown passes, Jay Cutler played above average. In those eight games, he had a 62% completion percentage, 7.8 yards per attempt, and a respectable 85.1 quarterback rating. Statistically, his best game was vs. Washington last December, when he threw for 315 yards, and had a 117.0 quarterback rating. The issue for Chicago’s offense is their horrible offensive line. Last year, four out of the five of them earned positive grades, then three of them went and left via free agency. Coming into this season, they’re arguably the worst in the league. In 2015, Matt Slauson was ranked as one of the best centers of the league, then this past May he went and signed a multi-million deal with San Diego

Last year with North Dakota State, Carson Wentz had a great TD-INT ratio — 17-4 — and a remarkable 152.3 quarterback rating. On Sunday, he threw his very first NFL touchdown pass, a 19-yard strike to Jordan Matthews; a perfect spiral towards the back left end of the end-zone. He completed the game with two touchdown passes, no interceptions, and a 101 QBR; a very impressive debut.

Defense

In their last 10 games, the Eagles’ passing defense has allowed an average of 284.6 passing yards and 7.5 yards per attempt, while allowing an average of 30.2 points overall. In those 10 games, in four road games, they’ve allowed 442.5 yards per game. Meanwhile, in their last 10 games, the Bears have had five home games, and during that stretch, their defense has allowed 346 yards per game.

The biggest issue for Chicago is the health of corner Kyle Fuller, who’s (see above) listed as questionable. Last season, Fuller was Chicago’s best defensive back; having only allowed 50 or more receiving yards just twice. After a slow start last year, Fuller rebounded and had an excellent rest of the season, ranking as one of the best coverage corners in the league.

Besides Fuller, Chicago’s secondary is atrocious, especially fellow corner Tracy Porter. Porter’s 30, and two seasons ago with Washington, opposing quarterbacks had a 94.6 passer rating vs. Porter, and it was clear his best days were behind him. Overall, last year, it was a puzzling pick up by Chicago.

The addition of Schwartz, in place of his horrendous predecessor Billy Davis, is huge. In 2014, as the defensive coordinator for Buffalo, Schwartz’s defense allowed under 30 points per game, while the Eagles’ defense last year had four games where the defense allowed 38 points or more. Fletcher Cox should make a big impact, especially considering how poor the Bears’ offensive line is.

Keys to the Game:

-Control Alshon Jeffery, with double coverage and bump-and-run strategies
-Blitz Cutler; outside of the pocket, he’s not as fast as he used to be, considering his age (33)
-Mental mistakes: the Eagles led the NFL last season in dropped balls, with 37 (Chicago ranked 14th)

Prediction

Bears 24-20

Considering he’s not only a rookie, but lacked many preseason snaps, Wentz was praised for his debut. Will he be able to follow it up on Monday? The home factor for Chicago certainly will be a factor. The Eagles will win if they control the pass and win the giveaway/takeaway department, while Chicago will win if they cover the blitz well and keep Jordan Matthews to a minimum.

Without a key asset in tight end Zach Ertz, Philadelphia’s at a huge loss, not to mention he’ll be replaced by little-known tight end Trey Burton, who only had 69 snaps the past two seasons. Despite that, one of the good things for the Eagles’ offense was their solid offensive line play last week, especially from left guard Allen Barbre and right tackle Lane Johnson. There’s a strong chance Johnson plays this week, despite the PED allegations clouding around him. Nonetheless, it should be an interesting prime-time game.

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