Chicago Bears (8-6) @ Philadelphia Eagles (8-6) 12/22- 8:30PM EST
Line: PHI -3.0
Before kickoff on Sunday night, both the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles will know where they stand for the playoffs as both teams are very much in the thick of things.
Here’s how it works… if Dallas losses earlier in the day to Washington, the Eagles (8-6) can wrap up the NFC East title by beating the Bears, if the Cowboys win, then regardless of what the Eagles do Sunday night, the division title will be up for grabs next Sunday in the regular season finale.
Six weeks ago, the Eagles were left for almost dead in the division being under .500 and down to their third-string quarterback—but went on a tear winning five straight and thanks in part to Dallas giving away games, Philadelphia now has a chance to claim the NFC East.
When asked if he would rest his starters if Dallas wins earlier in the day.. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly had this to say…
“We’re not in a situation where we’ve got to rest anybody,” he said. “We’ve got to play and get back on the winning track. We’ve got to be ready to play winning football.”
Philadelphia had won five consecutive games before last week’s surprising 48-30 blowout loss at Minnesota.
For the 8-6 Chicago Bears, they have Jay Cutler back and took a one-game lead in the NFC North over Detroit when they Lions lost to Baltimore on Monday night.
The Bears scenario is this—they will win the division crown with a victory Sunday night if second-place Green Bay loses to Pittsburgh and Detroit goes down to defeat against the Giants. Now, if only the Lions lose, it will set up a showdown between the Bears and Packers next week for the division title next Sunday.
The end result is this—regardless of how the Cowboys, Lions and Packers do earlier in the day, the winner of Sunday night’s matchup will have the edge for a No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs over the other with one week left to go.
“The only anxiety for me was depending on someone else, so now that we control our own destiny, I’m kind of at ease and really focused on Philadelphia,” receiver Brandon Marshall said. “It actually makes it easier that we’re in this position right now.”
Chicago was another team that seemed out of any division hopes after being swept by Detroit this season and Cutler going down with a high ankle sprain, but replacement Josh McCown kept it together going 2-2 for the Bears and the Lions struggling to pull away.
Cutler was back in action last Sunday to lead to Bears to a 38-31 win at Cleveland, but many believed McCown should have remained the starter. Cutler struggled early on in the game with two interceptions but finished going 22 of 31 for 265 yards and three touchdowns.
“The guys rallied behind me,” Cutler said. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was (pressure) with everything on the outside and as well as Josh played. But this was our plan all along and no one really flinched in our building.”
With the Eagles secondary having been exposed last week to the tune of 382 yards through the air, look for Cutler to repeat the game plan with 1,000 yard receivers Marshall and Alshon Jeffery at his disposal and with running backs Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett getting it done on the ground, the Eagles will have their hands full to a team that averages an NFC-high 29.0 points per game.
“Chicago might be one of the most talented offenses we face,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said.
The Eagles will counter with a steady diet of LeSean McCoy who has rushed for 1,343 yards this season and will be facing a Bears rush defense that is an NFL-worst 152.4 yards allowed per game and 5.2 per carry.
The Bears are hoping to have linebacker Lance Briggs back in action to help shore up the Bears porous defense after missing the last seven games with a fractured shoulder.
Briggs went through a full workout in practice on Friday and is considered a game-time decision according to Trestman…
“I’m very optimistic,” he said Friday. “Again, he practices for three days. He’s been cleared by the doctors.
“We’ll see where’s he at. But I wouldn’t want to say that he’s gonna to play, he’s gonna start. I think that’s still 48 hours away.”
Briggs or no Briggs, the oddsmakers have made the home Eagles a (minus -3.0) point favorite, but get the latest lines on the game right here at Wonder Punter up until game time.
Nick Foles has filled in nicely for the Eagles this season in place of Michael Vick and I look for him to have another big game in prime time on Sunday, but predict a close one.
By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter