Before we get to the predictions, here’s the iTunes link to this week’s podcast. Tim and Sheil talked Eagles-Bears, expectations for the final two weeks and more on 97.5 The Fanatic.
Player I’ll be watching:
McManus: Brandon Boykin
The cornerback returned to practice Thursday after being sidelined earlier in the week with a concussion. The fact that he’ll be able to play in this one is big. The secondary needs all hands on deck to try and slow a dangerous Chicago pass attack. Brandon Marshall will line up inside at times, making Boykin’s role that much more critical.
“He”ll motion and they make different formations, but there are times when he’ll be in the slot specifically,” said Boykin. “They look for him. I plan on being matched up with him head-to-head.”
That’s a big test for Boykin, but he’s by far the best inside cover man on the Eagles, so better him than the alternative.
Kapadia: Fletcher Cox
After last week’s abysmal defensive showing, Chip Kelly singled Cox out as one of the few bright spots against the Vikings. The second-year defensive tackle set a season-high with eight tackles to go along with a quarterback hurry.
Given the Bears’ talent at wide receiver, I’m not sure we’re going to see Billy Davis blitz much in this one. That means the Eagles have to be able to get pressure from their defensive linemen. Cox doesn’t have a sack in his last six games, but he’s played at a consistently high level.
Getting to Jay Cutler will not be easy. The Bears have allowed 24 sacks this season, third-fewest in the NFL. Davis needs Cox to create havoc on the interior, specifically as a pass-rusher.
Prop bet of the week:
Quarters played by the key starters (LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, etc.) — 2 1/2 . Whaddya got?
McManus: I’m going over. If Dallas beats Washington earlier in the day as many expect, the outcome of the Chicago game will not impact the NFC East race. Only potential seeding is on the line in this scenario. With the big showdown in Dallas looming, there is logic in resting some of your starters so they can be healthy and fresh for the biggest game of the season.
Kelly said that he will not sit his guys in that situation. I believe that is the right thing to say. For all he knows the Cowboys could fall to Washington, which would give the Eagles an opportunity to clinch the division with a win over Chicago. It’s best not to plant the seed that some of his stars could get the night off. He needs them dialed in should they have a chance to seal the NFC East Sunday night.
I realize he could change his tune if Dallas ends up winning, but I’m betting that he’ll be true to his word. For one, the importance of seeding shouldn’t be overlooked; it’s best to put off a trip to Seattle for as long as possible this postseason. Second, I think Kelly wants his offense to get as many reps as possible in the name of fine-tuning this thing. Not sure he’s going to just give snaps away. Plus, I think he’d prefer to recapture momentum rather than going into the Cowboys game on a two-game slide.
Kapadia: This is a tough one on so many levels. I agree with most of what you said there, T-Mac. Seeding does matter, especially when you have a team like Seattle in your bracket that is close to unbeatable at home.
Then again, it might be appealing to put McCoy, Jackson and Nick Foles on the shelf to gear up for the finale. In the end, I think the advantages of playing starters outweigh the potential negatives, so I’ll take the over as well.
Sunday’s going to be a lot of fun. Remember, if the Lions lose and the Packers win, all of a sudden the Bears will have nothing to play for in the night game (other than seeding). Can you imagine if those two things happen and the Cowboys lose to the Redskins?
The Eagles could potentially be competing against some of Chicago’s backups with a chance to lock up the NFC East.
McManus: Bears 31, Eagles 27
A bunch of variables in this one. This could be the most significant game of the season for the Eagles, or it could be the equivalent of an appetizer before the main dish next week. The Bears are in a similar situation: depending on how the early games shake out they could be playing for the NFC North crown, or the game could have no impact on their division race.
I’ll guess that the Cowboys will win, making this game less significant for the Eagles, and that Chicago will have something to play for. Even if Kelly wants his team to approach the game the same way regardless, the psychological edge would belong to the Bears in this scenario.
Kapadia: Bears 37, Eagles 34
We’re on the same page this week. I won’t put anything past Dallas – especially after last week – but the guess here is that the Cowboys will win their early game.
There’s absolutely a difference between “win and we clinch a playoff spot” and “this game only matters for seeding.” Given what we saw last week, it’s tough for me to see the Eagles slowing down Chicago’s passing attack.
Having said that, the Bears should have no shot at containing McCoy. So I’m sensing a shootout. The difference could be special teams, and if that happens, the Bears have the edge.