NFL Wild Card Weekend concludes with the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles (9-7 SU) heading to Chicago for a date with the NFC North champion Bears (12-4 SU).
The Bears have opened as 5.5-point favorites and online sports betting sites, as well as bettors, are counting on the defenses in this one, as the total opened 42 and dropped to 41 in just a couple hours.
Kickoff is set for 4:40pm EST on Sunday, January 6th.
Eagles fans simply cannot thank Nick Foles enough.
The 29-year-old brought the city its first Super Bowl last season, being honored as Super Bowl 52 MVP in what was one of the best performances we’ve seen from a QB in the championship game, and he has now given them a shot at defending their title.
Eagles’ QB Nick Foles has a $1 million incentive if Philadelphia goes to the postseason AND he plays 33 percent of team’s plays. His bruised ribs that prevented him from finishing today’s game now mean he played 32 percent of Eagles’ plays – 1 percent short of $1 million. Ouch.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 31, 2018
A good start may be raising the $1 million incentive he barely missed out on.
Just when it looked like the Eagles were about to throw the towel in on the 2018 NFL season, following a 29-23 OT loss to the Cowboys in Week 14 that dropped their record to 6-7, Foles came to the rescue again.
The former third-round pick lifted the Eagles to impressive wins over the Rams and Texans in back-to-back weeks, before finishing the season off with a beating of the Redskins.
Nick Foles NFL records
🏈Tied for most consecutive completions in a single game (25)
🏈Tied for most touchdowns in a single game (7)
🏈Highest passer rating in NFL playoff history(113.2)(125+ attempts)
🏈Highest completion percentage in single playoff (72.6)(100+ attempts) pic.twitter.com/2SZlVvCMNF
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) December 30, 2018
And thanks to a Bears victory over the Vikings in Week 17, Philadelphia’s three-game winning streak was enough to grab the final wild card spot in the NFC.
Fortunately, it does look like Foles will be able to suit up in the Wild Card Round this Sunday after leaving their Week 17 game with a rib injury.
Eagles believe QB Nick Foles has bruised ribs and they think he’s OK, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 31, 2018
In his five starts this season, Foles posted a 96.0 passer rating. And if you remove his rough start in Week 1 against the Falcons, he possesses a 105.5 passer rating in 2018.
There’s no doubt the backup has provided a spark, as Philly scored at least 30 points in two of their final three, a feat they only accomplished once with Carson Wentz under center this season.
.@NickFoles set a franchise record for passing yards in a game (471).
— NFL (@NFL) December 24, 2018
But turnovers have remained an issue for the offense even with Foles under center. He threw an interception in each of his last three starts, helping the Eagles commit a total of five turnovers in that time.
Against a Bears defense that has generated an NFL-high 36 takeaways this season, Foles and company will have to protect the football to continue their title defense.
A running game would be a huge help with this. But the Eagles are averaging just 3.9 yards per carry, which is third-worst in the league. The trio of Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams, and Darren Sproles will have to help keep Philadelphia out of third-and-long scenarios.
Individual QB hit leaders for the 2018 regular season:
Aaron Donald: 41
Fletcher Cox: 34
Yannick Ngakoue: 33
Michael Bennett: 30
Dee Ford, Myles Garrett, Chris Jones: 29
Frank Clark: 27
Von Miller: 26
JJ Watt, Za’Darius Smith: 25
Jarran Reed: 24
Calais Campbell: 22
— Johnny Kinsley (@Brickwallblitz) December 31, 2018
Defensively, the Eagles secondary has been ravaged by injuries this year. The result has been them allowing the third-most yards through the air in the NFL (269.3). And that number would be even worse had they not gotten Josh Johnson and the Redskins’ passing attack in Week 17, who managed just 68 passing yards.
In order for the Eagles to stand a chance here, they’ll need to shutdown the Bears’ running game. But their front has not been as dominant as last season, as they allow 4.7 yards per carry (21st).
Eagles vs Bears Statistical Comparison
|22.9 (18th)||PPG||26.3 (9th)|
|365.3 (14th)||YPG||343.9 (21st)|
|98.1 (28th)||Rushing YPG||121.1 (11th)|
|267.2 (7th)||Passing YPG||222.8 (21st)|
|21.8 (12th)||PPG Allowed||17.7 (1st)|
|366.2 (23rd)||YPG Allowed||299.7 (3rd)|
|96.9 (7th)||Rushing YPG Allowed||80 (1st)|
|269.3 (30th)||Passing YPG Allowed||219.7 (7th)|
|-6 (25th)||Turnover Differential||+12 (3rd)|
Not many will argue against Matt Nagy as the NFL’s Coach of the Year. The first-year head coach took a 5-11 hapless team and turned them into NFC North champions with a 12-4 record.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) December 31, 2018
But Bears fans have their sights set much higher than just a good regular season.
And all the positives Nagy has brought this season would be softened if Chicago cannot come up with a victory over the opponent they chose in Wild Card Weekend.
…but see you next week. 😏 pic.twitter.com/6ttOruOYCe
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 31, 2018
Chicago has rode their league-best defense this season. The Bears have allowed the fewest points in the NFL, the third-fewest total yards, the fewest rushing yards, the seventh-fewest passing yards, and (as mentioned) forced the most turnovers in the league.
This is a unit with no glaring holes. The eighth-overall pick from the 2018 NFL Draft, Roquan Smith, who led the team in tackles, grades out the worst among Bears starters per PFF (65.0).
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) November 19, 2018
This is a defense that shuts down your running game and then feasts on your quarterback when you have to pass.
Their offense should not be discredited, though.
Mitchell Trubisky has greatly benefited from Nagy’s arrival, raising his passer rating from 77.5 last year to 95.4 in 2018.
Mitchell Trubisky dropping dimes downfield! pic.twitter.com/2qxPYi37ue
— Taylor Vippolis (@tvippolis) December 30, 2018
The second-year pivot has been able to rely on a powerful ground game, too, averaging 121.1 rushing yards per game. The duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen out of the backfield has been lethal.
None of this would be without Nagy’s creativity and masterful play-calling, though.
— NFL (@NFL) October 10, 2017
Trubisky has to be ready to make some plays come Sunday, as you can expect the Eagles to sellout to stop the run and force the young QB into beating them with his arm.
The last time these two played was on November 26th, 2017. The Eagles hammered the Bears 31-3, serving as heavy 14-point favorites.