JEFF MCLANE Record, 3-4
Take this prediction with a grain of refined salt. I had the Cowboys over the Eagles last week. The thinking then was that the Eagles would lose one of their next two, so why not to Dallas, a team they didn't appear to match up well against? But that was then and this is now and it's hard to imagine the Eagles losing to a mediocre Bears squad after pummeling the Cowboys, 34-7. It really was that impressive of a victory. It was the team many had expected: lightning quick and efficient on offense, unrelenting and swarming on defense and sound all around.
A let down is not out of the question, especially considering that the Eagles aren't that far removed from a four-game losing streak. There are still areas of concern. I'm not convinced that the run defense is fixed. If Dallas didn't trail by so much so early they could have run on the Eagles. And that is where Chicago has its best chance. Running back Matt Forte is playing as well as any offensive player in the NFL. Even if the Eagles key in on Forte I still think he gets his yards. The Bears' problem is their offensive line. It can't block anybody.
The Eagles have the same issues up front. As much as the offensive line has played above expectations the rookies -- center Jason Kelce and right guard Danny Watkins -- continue to have their struggles. With left tackle Jason Peters assigned to defensive end Julius Peppers and right tackle Todd Herremans on Israel Idonije, the interior of the line will have to be on point. The Bears didn't blitz Michael Vick much in their win over the Eagles last season, so I don't see any reason why they would again this time.
Aside from those quibbles, if the Eagles can minimize turnovers for the second straight week they should win. Chicago's defense, tied for 23d in the NFL in yards allowed, is not what it once was. The cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman are getting torched this season and the safety situation, even though both original starters have been replaced, remains a problem. Even if Chicago plays a lot of Cover 2, I have a feeling this is the game DeSean Jackson breaks out. Eagles, 30-18.
What goes right: The Eagles don't allow returner Devin Hester to break off a big one.
What goes wrong: Forte goes for over 100 yards on the ground.
There is a lot to like this week for the Eagles, who rounded into form last week and cut out the big mistakes. The Bears defense isn’t what it once was and they have only one significant threat on offense: Forte, who ranks sixth in the NFL in rushing and leads the team in receptions and receiving yards. Jay Cutler has cut down on turnovers, but has only thrown 9 touchdowns and isn’t very accurate, and the Bears have allowed 21 sacks, 10th most in the NFL. Jason Babin and Trent Cole will be fighting each other to get to Cutler and Vick should be able to move the ball on the Bears, who rank tied for 23d in yards allowed.
The Bears, of course, are 4-3 and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Hester and Peppers each have enough talent to turn a game on its head and tilt the outcome. The Bears defense is also strong in the red zone (9th overall) and they have eight interceptions. The Eagles, despite recent success, have had trouble in both of those areas. Lastly, the Eagles improved run D has been helped significantly by holding leads the past two games. DeMarco Murray still ran for better than nine yards a carry last week, but only got eight chances. If the Bears stick with Forte, we’ll find out if the Eagles run D is for real, or a mirage.
All that said, the Eagles showed last week that when they hold on to the ball, they have too many offensive weapons for any defense. LeSean McCoy shows no sign of slowing and the D seems to be coming together. The Eagles have momentum after an impressive performance last week, and it says here it keeps building. Eagles, 27–17.
What goes right: The Eagles make Cutler’s life miserable, with talented corners blanketing OK receivers and the pass rush looking fierce.
What goes wrong: A steady diet of Forte shows that the run D still has work to do.