Philadelphia Eagles: Division leaders square off with playoff aspirations

Two teams with hopes of making the playoffs will be meeting in Philadelphia on Sunday night, as the Philadelphia Eagles welcome the Chicago Bears to Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles are coming off of their first loss in the past seven games. The defense fell victim to Matt Cassel and the Vikings’ passing game, while the offense continued to work well together, scoring a respectable 30 points.

Jay Cutler made his return to the field last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, after missing some time due to a high ankle sprain. Josh McCown filled in for Cutler while he was injured and was impressive.

Over 7 games, McCown had a completion percentage of 66.8, and quarterback efficiency rating of 109.8, and a 13 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio, all bettering his fellow quarterback, Cutler.

Although rumors have swirled about the Bears’ coaching staff being split down the middle in regard to who they believe should be the starting quarterback, Coach Marc Trestman had the final say, and stuck with his belief in the gun slinger, Jay Cutler.

Cutler struggled at times and seemed to be getting past some rustiness towards the early moments of the game. He would later get into a groove and finish with 265 yards and 3 touchdowns, leading the Bears to a 38-31 win.

While both the Eagles and the Bears sit atop struggling divisions, the next two games are “must-win” games for each team.

The Cowboys sit one game back of first place behind the Eagles and hold the tiebreakers. The Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers are one game behind the Chicago Bears for first place in the NFC North, both holding the tiebreaker as well.

This should be considered a playoff game for both teams.

The Bears are featuring an aerial attack that Chicago fans have not seen in years. The progression of second year wide receiver, Alshon Jeffrey, has allowed Cutler (and McCown) to look to someone other than Brandon Marshall for big plays in the passing game.

Both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey rank in the top 5 in receiving yards in the NFC. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey rank in the top 5 in receiving yards in the NFC. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Bears’ receiving targets may be the biggest in the league. With the combination of speed and size possessed by Marshall and Jeffrey on the outside, along with tight end Martellus Bennet utilizing the middle of the field with his 6’6, 265 pound frame, the Eagles’ secondary that allowed Matt Cassel to throw for over 380 yards is going to have their hands full.

Not to mention, Matt Forte is once again making a case to be the best all around halfback in football. Forte has rushed for over 1,200 yards and has over 500 receiving yards on the season. It is going to be the responsibility of linebacker Mychal Kendricks to contain the versatile running back.

Despite adding to the loss column last Sunday, the Eagles offense did not experience any setbacks. Aside from an altercation between wide receivers Desean Jackson and Jason Avant, the offensive chemistry remains high for the Eagles.

Jackson’s quickness can present issues for the Bears’ cornerbacks. A mixture of Zach Bowman and Tim Jennings would likely be the approach to stopping Jackson.

Bowman is a cornerback with size, who in man-to-man coverage can present some issues for Jackson. Jennings, on the other hand, is smaller in stature, standing at 5’10. Jennings led the NFL in interceptions one season ago and may be the better fit for guarding Jackson, given his quickness and ability to stay with faster receivers.

Either way, Philly will most definitely be watching game tape of Josh Gordon running rampant all over the Chicago Bears secondary last week, in an effort to have a repeat on behalf of Desean Jackson.

Prior to the Bears’ meeting with the Browns, the Bears’ defense had given up an average of 204 rushing yards per game over their last seven outings. This means we can safely expect a heavy dosage of LeSean McCoy.

McCoy touched the ball only 13 times against the Vikings due to the score, which called for more passing plays from the Eagles. McCoy, who is the league’s leading rusher, should be the focal point of the Eagles’ offense on Sunday. With pro bowl linebacker, Lance Briggs dealing with various health issues, and a young pair of linebackers beside him, Chip Kelly will be looking to exploit the Bears’ defensive struggles with stopping opposing running backs.

The magnitude of this game cannot be over stated. It will be on Sunday Night Football with the roar of Philly fans consuming the stadium. The icy cold temperatures should not play to either teams’ advantage, making this game a gut-wrenching battle in the trenches.