Sunday, December 22, 2013

NFL Preview 2013 Week 16: Bears vs Eagles

Chicago Bears vs Philadelphia Eagles

Market Watch

It was only a week ago when the perception was that the Eagles were clearly a better football team than the Bears. Las Vegas had them as -6 point favorites for this prime-time matchup, but that all shifted after Week 15 action. Philadelphia re-opened as -3.5 point favorites on Monday, and it was immediately bet down to -3.

This line is telling us that these teams are even in the power rankings, with the obligatory -3 given to the Eagles for home field advantage.

As of today, 54 percent of the bets are coming in on the Bears.

Keep an eye on

Each of these teams have significant advantages against each other, the question is which one will come out on top?

The Eagles secondary gets back Boykin and Wolff, which should be a boost to a pass coverage unit that will need it. The problem is this wasn't a stellar group to begin with, and now must face the unenviable task of containing Marshall, Jeffery, and Bennett. Williams and Fletcher will be the two in the spotlight, and they've been ordinary so far this season.  Advantage Chicago.

When Philly have the ball, LeSean McCoy will be the primary focus. He has more yards and touchdowns on red zone rushes than any other team this season. This may or may not be a factor on Sunday night since the Bears have a pretty good red zone defense, but the table is set for a huge day from McCoy if the Eagles don't fall behind and stay committed to the ground game. According to ProFootballFocus, McCoy has forced 51 missed tackles (4th best), 654 yards after contact, and 508 receiving yards (5th best).

This is a monumental challenge for the Bears run defense, which ranks as one of the worst in the NFL. Lance Briggs has been cleared to return, but the decision to play will be up to him. If he does play, it will likely be in a limited role. The Bears will take it though, since he's the only defender who's done well against the run this year.

The other guy to keep a close guy on is Nick Foles. Since his amazing streak, he's fallen back to earth a bit. It's still too early in his career to guess what he might do in this prime-time spot, but the Bears don't have a fearsome pass rush anymore. If Philly can stick with the ground game, Foles won't have to be great to pull out a win.

An area that might not be getting enough press is how the Eagles play at home. They were on a horrendous losing streak dating back to last year before they finally put together a couple wins, but this is a crowd that gets tense when things begin to go bad. As great as the Philly fans are, they'll be the first to let you know how you're playing.

Bottom Line

When all is said and done, it's difficult to say which team is the right side in this matchup. This is a big game for both teams in the playoff race, especially if things fall their way in the afternoon games. It's all going to come down to execution because both teams will have the opportunity to dictate on offense.

Flip a coin.