Romilly Evans expects the Eagles to soar into the play-offs at the expense of the Chicago Bears...
"The home fans will create a cacophony of chaos to flood Cutler’s senses every time he goes to work"
Chicago Bears @ Philadelphia Eagles
Monday December 23, 01:30
Live on Channel 4
After an odd accumulation of capricious variables and deviations from the norm, both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Bears find themselves sitting top of their respective divisions with their postseason destiny squarely in their hands.
All this despite key changes at quarterback (original starters in the Eagles' Mike Vick and the Bears' Jay Cutler have missed chunks of the season with injury - Vick has even been replaced) and scenes of truly awful defense (the Eagles plumb the depths of the charts against the pass, the Bears likewise against the run). It's amazing they're still in the play-off mix. Then again, it has been one of the most open regular seasons on record.
Philadelphia have been indebted to their promising back-up QB, Nick Foles, who has stepped up to rescue their season, posting numbers that have him ranked as the fourth-best passer in NFL history! While Passer Rating is a skewed guide to ability - and Foles' short sample of performance too narrow to produce definitive conclusions - the 24-year-old is certainly one of the rising stars of the NFL. You have to be when you're only trailing Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
Foles, of course, has been made to look good by one of the most formidable offenses in the league, spearheaded by the one-two knockout punch of running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. These two supreme athletes are on the verge of becoming only the 13th RB-WR combo to both rack up over 1,300 yards in a season. They already own the historic franchise marks, while McCoy leads the NFL in ground gains.
Chicago have their own playmakers too - exclusively reporting in on offense. The jury may still be out as to whether Cutler will be given the keys to the city in the form of franchise quarterback at the end of the season. But the jury is in on his sublime skills. He was able to return to the head of the team last week and some overcome nagging ankle issues to keep his Bears in the postseason hunt.
Towering talent often has a tottering quality, though, and Cutler again made the mistakes (two first-half picks) which have led many to doubt his credentials as an elite quarterback. However, his cannon arm soon found its range and Cutler got by the Cleveland Browns with a little help from his friends (wideout Brandon Marshall and stalwart rusher Matt Forte). Cutler will only improve his efficiency for that pipe-opener, but an overreliance on Marshall and Alshon Jeffery could present Philly's D with opportunities for more turnovers.
Adding variety to a predictable receiving corps, though, is easier said than done. For all their struggles, the Eagles' defense have secured at least one turnover in their last 10 games, while the only rank second to the Trojan Wall defense of Seattle for red-zone recoveries. This redeeming ray of light in a mist of blown coverages at least gives the Philadelphia secondary a fighting chance.
The lily-livered linebackers of the Chicago, on the other hand, have garnered even more bearish reviews. As for their secondary, it's less a mobile protection unit more a vague association of statues. Jackson and McCoy should accordingly enjoy more brotherly love in the familiar confines of Lincoln Financial Field.
The stadium itself, one of the most daunting arenas on the circuit, could also prove the clincher for the home side whose fans will create a cacophony of chaos to flood Cutler's senses every time he goes to work. Giving up a measly field-goal, the Eagles get the nod on the normal lines in what could prove a shootout.
Back Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5) to beat Chicago Bears on Match Handicap @ 1.865/6 or better
Back Pittsburgh Steelers (-2.5) to beat Chicago Bears on First Half Handicap @ 1.9620/21 or better
Back Over 31.5 Philadelphia Eagles Total Points @ 2.01/1 or better