Chicago Bears: Contender or Pretender?

Chicago Bears: Contender or Pretender?

"We'll know a lot more about our football team," head coach Lovie Smith said about the ensuing game between his Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.

I think he’s right. We'll find out if Da Bears are in fact a legit contender to make the playoffs.

They will face a very talented Eagles team in probably the loudest outdoor stadium in the NFL. Lincoln Financial Field actually has metal flaps designed to bounce crowd noise back down and onto the field.

We all know how crazy Philly fans can get. I’m referring to the noise they can generate, not the throwing of snowballs at Santa Claus—amongst many other egregious acts.

This will be the first true road game for Da Bears since the "Detroit Debacle" back in Week-5. And being on Monday Night Football, Philly fans could be feeling extra SAUCE-y. I have a feeling we'll be hearing a lot of "False start, offense, number 73 … 74 … 67 … 60 … 87," and so on.

But I can’t actually believe that I'm fairly confident with Lance Louis starting at the right tackle position. Gabe Carimi is healthy enough to play, and he's the best RT on the team.

But, the o-line has something going. They're playing as a cohesive unit. It comes down to the old adage: “If it's not broke, don't fix it.” Granted, the o-line has been getting a lot of help from running backs and tight ends with chip-blocks, but they've been competent. They do have to be better, though.

The Eagles employ a Wide-9 technique with their defensive-ends. Wide-9 is just a new flashy term for a technique—NOT a defensive scheme—that has been around for at least two decades. National broadcasters like flashy terms—remember when "Tampa 2" and "Wildcat" were all the rage?

The Wide-9 just means that the DE's line up about a foot outside of the TE and tilt towards the quarterback in a sprinter's stance. Since there's typically only one TE, only one DE is truly in a 9-technique. This helps to utilize their speed and turn it into power as they get up-field.

The Wide-9—like any technique—is not perfect; it is very susceptible to counters, draws and traps, which Da Bears have executed well in recent weeks. Besides having a weak linebacker corps, the Wide-9 is a big reason the Eagles give up 118 yards rushing per game. Look for Matt Forte to continue to be effective and gain large chunks of yardage, especially on the ground. Unless Martz goes all, you know, Martzy.

Da Bears have steadily been improving their run defense. Some of that has to do with jumping out to a lead and making their opponent one-dimensional, but they're improving nonetheless. They'll have to be near perfect if they want to win on Monday night. LeSean McCoy is second in the NFL in rushing yards. He's also very good at catching the ball out of the backfield.

Of course, the Eagles still have that one guy … Vick, I believe his name is. He can be dynamic, but he has struggled against Lovie's defense. Da Bears have sacked Vick 15 times and forced him to fumble five times since Lovie has been at the helm.

Da Bears aren't a particularly good match-up for Vick. The Lovie-2 keeps 11 sets of eyes on Vick at all times. Vick tends to shred defenses that use man-coverage, which follows the receivers, and by time the secondary turns around, Vick is already right behind them. Having all eyes on Vick may hold him to, say, a six-yard rush instead of a 25-yard gain.

Yes, Da Bears did beat the Eagles last year. However, Jay Cutler had a career day with four touchdown passes. It was also a coming-out party for a few defensive linemen as they recorded four sacks. The same needs to happen Monday, because the Eagles' wide receivers are smart and explosive. They'll exploit the soft spots in the zone defense if Vick gets time, as he is becoming a more polished QB in the pocket.

This will be Chris Conte's first true test at safety and it's going to be strict pass or fail grading.

Da Bears need to be disciplined in all facets of the game and have contributions from all three phases in order to win in Philadelphia. If they do, then they'll be real contenders to make the playoffs. If not, they'll be pretenders, unable to separate themselves from the NFL blob.

Tune in to Chicago Sports Fix with Josh Catlow and me, Rob Zielinski, this and every Monday from 6 to 8pm only on Chicagoland Sports Radio.

Share your thoughts with us by calling 312.564.7375 during show hours or email us at chicagosportsfix@gmail.com.

Adam Oestmann, Managing Editor for Chicago Bears Huddle, will be joining us in the first hour.

The Daily Herald's Barry Rozner, who also hosts WSCR 670-AM The Score's venerable baseball program Hit & Run, will be joining us any Monday now to TALK MORE HOCKEY! Unfortunately, due to his schedule, we cannot get a definitive date. So you'll have to be listening to catch our interview with him.

Follow me on twitter @robzielinski.

PREACH

Filed under: Game Preview

Tags: Philadelphia Eagles

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