The last wildcard playoff match up tomorrow will have the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles travel to the “Windy City” to take on the NFC North Champion Chicago Bears.
The weather is going to be surprisingly warm for a playoff game in Chicago, especially in January, with it being 39 degrees and mostly cloudy with winds up to thirteen miles per hour, so the passing and kicking games might be slightly affected.
Quarterback play: This is Mitchell Tribusky’s first playoff game, and based on fellow second year quarterback Deshaun Watson’s play at home yesterday, Mitchell should be a little nervous. In contrast, this is the fifth playoff game for Nick Foles where he has won the last three, including Super Bowl LII versus the New England Patriots.
Running Backs: The Bears have the tandem of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, which blend the styles of power and speed, big and little running backs efficiently. Don’t also be surprised if Offensive Coordinator Mark Helfrich, the former University of Oregon Head coach has another trick or two up his sleeve as he has had Cohen throw the ball out of the backfield. As far as the Eagles, this was one of the main reasons why they became champions last season; however neither LeGarrette Blount nor Jay Ajayi are on this team currently, as Blount is on the Detroit Lions and Ajayi has surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee. So the Eagles running attack based on the pair of Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams, both whom took over the reigns late in the season.
Wide Receivers: While the Bears didn’t have a receiver reach the 1,000 yard mark, Tribusky did distribute the ball around efficiently as he had four receivers reach over 500 yards and a fifth with 438. In contrast, the Eagles had Zack Ertz go over 1,000 yards for the year with two others getting over 700, then the rest of the team’s production falls sharply. What is also interesting that both teams have receivers that used to play for the other team in Alshon Jeffery for the Eagles and Trey Burton for the Bears.
Offensive line: The Eagles’ Offensive Line is beat up with injuries to three of their starters and they are listed as questionable and against an intense pass rush might be bad news. In contrast, the Bears’ Offensive Line is extremely healthy and have been a formidable unit all season long keeping Mitchell Tribusky vertical, only getting sacked 24 times all season long.
Defense: “The Monsters of the Midway” seem to be back and they are firing all cylinders with star linebackers Khalil Mack, Danny Trevathan and rookie Roquan Smith leading the way. They also have some unsung heroes on the defensive line like Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks punishing opposing interior linemen all season long. By comparison it looks like the Eagles’ defense doesn’t seemingly compare as they have several starters, especially on their front four well into their 30s, and they didn’t force many turnovers all season long. It seems like they play together as a unit with a bend don’t break mentality. The Bears allowed the fewest points all season long with 283, while the Eagles were ninth on this list allowing 348.
Special Teams: Cody Parkey has been shaky at times for the Bears kicking field goals as he missed seven for the season, while Punter Pat O’Donnell has been booming kicks all year long; he has been averaging 45 yards a punt with only one being blocked. Jake Elliot has been a solid kicker for the Eagles all year long and first year and native of Australia Cameron Johnston has been rocketing punts with a 48.1 yards per punt average thus flipping the field consistently.
All and all, it should be a great match-up between two historical teams in an even more historic building. As far as a prediction: Don’t be surprised if the Eagles shock the system once in this playoffs and win 27-24.