NFC Playoff Preview: Wildcard Weekend

By: Thomas Capo
Posted: January 6, 2019

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) at Chicago Bears (12-4)

Sunday, January 6 th , 4:40 pm EST.
In my view, Chicago is the best team in the entire playoff field that didn’t earn a bye. In fact, if Mitchell Trubisky doesn’t miss the week 13 game against the Giants that the Bears lost by a field goal, they probably get the two seed. That Khalil Mack-led defense is probably the best overall unit in the league, allowing the fewest points per game (17.7) and third fewest yards (299.7). They’re particularly stingy against the run, allowing only 80 YPG on the ground, the best in the league. That doesn’t mean that you can throw the ball on them easily, though. The Chicago secondary, led by Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson, picked off opposing quarterbacks twenty-seven times, the most by any team in the league. Additionally, the aforementioned Mack and crew racked up fifty sacks thus far this season, the second most of any unit in the playoffs. Mack himself is responsible for twelve and a half sacks and six forced fumbles. Free-ranging rookie inside linebacker Roquon Smith has been a standout as well, leading the team with one hundred-twenty-one tackles. It’s a perfectly balanced and tough unit that offenses struggle to move the ball against. Offensively, the Bears have proven to be versatile, creeping into the top ten in the league in points scored. In fact, they are the only playoff team in the NFC that ranks in the top ten in both points scored and points allowed. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen lead a rushing attack that benefits greatly from the versatility of their quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, who’s rushed for over four-hundred yards and three touchdowns. They might not have the flashy offensive stats of the Saints or the Rams, but in the playoffs, with that defense, they can generate plenty of points and keep opposing offenses on the sidelines. Philadelphia struggled mightily in the early part of this year, losing six of their first ten games. The defending champs, with a healthy Carson Wentz back under center, were moving the ball well, but simply weren’t finishing drives. They threw and ran for plenty of yardage, but just didn’t score very many points. They improved over the final weeks of the season, after the return of Super Bowl winning backup Nick Foles, winning five of their last six games, including a season-defining road win against the Rams in L.A. The 9-7 Eagles are a wildcard in the truest sense. At times looking like the team that outdueled Tom Brady and the Patriots, and in others losing by forty-one points to the Saints. Put simply, they’re a Jekyll and Hyde team that is difficult to game plan for.

Prediction: The resurgent Eagles have caught fire, but still rank in the bottom half of the league
in points scored and also allow the twelfth most. Juxtaposed with the Bears ranking in the top
ten in both categories, I can’t see the Eagles getting a road win at Soldier Field.

Bears 27, Eagles 14

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out Tom’s other playoff previews here

Image Source: USA Today

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