The Eagles blow into Chicago on Sunday night looking for revenge after last season's fourth quarter meltdown against the Bears, but this is not the same (second-rate) offense that marched 97 yards on 11 plays with under two minutes to go. Stars such as Brian Griese, Bernard Berrian, and Muhsin Muhammad have all gone to better places. You just can't replace that kind of talent experience group.
Oh they tried, how they tried. Kyle Orton was finally given his long overdue shot, and to ensure his success, he's been paired with stiffs and castoffs like Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd. They do have a nice situation at tight end, but come on! And you guys complain about the Eagles receivers? I almost pity the Bears.
Regardless of who lines up across from them, I'm sure the Eagles defense has not forgotten they cost the team a win last time, and they'll leave a little extra on the field to put it behind them.
Tommie Harris (if he plays)
As Tommie Harris goes, so the Bears defense goes. If Chicago is going to win this game, they need to put a stop to an Eagles offense that has shown the ability to air it out. For that to happen, Harris needs to take advantage of one of their few distinct weaknesses: the interior offensive line. With Shawn Andrews out and Jamaal Jackson reportedly battling a quad injury, this could be an area of concern facing a prolific defensive tackle.
Harris is such a large part of what this defense does. They don't blitz often, so it's important the front four generate pressure and allow the secondary to creep up in their cover 2 assignments and make plays on the ball. He is just as crucial to stopping the run, as just his mere presence keeps blockers off of Urlacher and allows the middle linebacker to get to running backs faster and stop the play sooner.
The last thing I want to do is create the usual injury panic about Donovan, but this is clearly the type of injury that interferes with the ability to throw a football. The Eagles did the right thing letting him rest this week, and he is tough enough to deal with some minor discomfort even if he's not quite 100%.
By no means does that mean it should be understated. One thing the Bears defense does as well as any team in the league is turn interceptions into 6 points, and any injury that changes the quarterback's motion or makes him think about taking a hit always has the potential to result in errant passes. I think he's going be just fine, but make no mistake, the opponent will keep a close eye on his body language throughout the game.
Bears Offense VS. Eagles Defense
Advantage: Eagles. The guy least looking forward to this game has to be Orton, especially once he watched the film from the Steelers game. I actually have to give Orton some credit, he's no Rex Grossman, and I don't necessarily see him slinging pick after pick while he runs for his life. Honestly though, what's he going to do?
The Bears offensive line is hurting, and they don't have any reliable receivers. Rookie RB Matt Forte has been a nice addition, but the Eagles have had no problems stopping the run to this point. All together, it creates the recipe for a long day for the Bears offense. They are not so tragically hopeless to be written off completely, but if the defense plays with even half the intensity they showed last week, it's over.
No Westbrook? No Problem.
You hear it all the time, the Eagles wouldn't be able to do what they do without Westbrook. No doubt about it, anytime you take a player of his caliber out of the lineup, you're obviously going to battle without a huge weapon.
Their supposed inability to win without him has been blown out of proportion though. If this were January, I would be far more concerned about the possibility of West being out, but they should be able to do without against Chicago. For one thing, Buckhalter has proven to be a more than reliable backup, and he may not be quite as dynamic as his counterpart, but Andy Reid is not afraid to split him wide or set up a screen for him. In fact, love him or hate him, Reid's system has allowed the Eagles to get away with playing backups in important roles for years, and maybe that doesn't win Super Bowls, but it's usually good enough to beat a mediocre team in September.
Usually when coming up with the final score, I actually try to break the game down drive for drive a few times and run through some different scenarios. Each time I broke this game down, I simply started the Bears with a touchdown. Maybe the defense scores, and Devin Hester is always a threat to break one, so right away adjust your thinking by seven.
Even once I had accounted for that, it was still difficult to project the offense actually threatening to keep the game close. Can they score? Of course they could. The Eagles still have to take the field and win, so for right now, the Bears have a chance.
But this is no walk in the park. Kyle Orton hasn't shown me anything to suggest he's ready for the onslaught he faces, and that's if his porous offensive line even gives him the chance. This is the kind of team the Eagles need to flatten and continue to assert themselves as one of the best teams in the conference. The Bears D isn't as good as it used to be, and the offense has next to no redeeming qualities, so I predict the good guys roll to 3-1. Enjoy the game.
Final Score: Eagles 27, Bears 13