Monday Night Football will pit the Chicago Bears against the Philadelphia Eagles—a team coming off a two-game winning streak.
This is certainly a contest to find out just where the Bears are at on both sides of the ball. Eagles Defensive Coordinator Juan Castillo has the Eagles defensive linemen in a wide-nine alignment; the same alignment the Lions run, which gave the Bears fits in their last Monday night game.
Combine that with a talented secondary, and the Eagles can oppose problems for just about any team in the NFL.
Although Lovie Smith defenses have done a terrific job against Mike Vick in the past, the Philly QB is still too tremendous of an athlete, and he scares the opposing fan base. A win for the Bears makes them a legit playoff contender. But a loss sets them back, and the same questions about the roster once again come into play.
Like I said, Lovie Smith defenses have done a terrific job against Mike Vick, but you cannot live off past outcomes. Players get better each year. What makes the Bears so successful against Vick is that they keep all 11 sets of eyes on him; that along with the speed of the defense helps to neutralize Vick’s ability to run and force him to be strictly a pocket passer. If the Bears front four can generate a pass-rush against an Eagles o-line, who up until the Cowboys game struggled in pass protection, the Philly offense should be fully contained throughout the game.
What makes this match-up difficult for the Bears defense this time around is the emergence of Running Back LeSean McCoy. McCoy leads the league in rushing yards with 754 yards; making him the reason why the Eagles also rank first in the league in rushing. The Bears have to be gap discipline against McCoy, who is quite dangerous with jump-cuts and misdirection runs.
The Eagles Receivers still give an opposing secondary a lot to think about. This is the first true test for the Bears young safety tandem, Chris Conte and Major Wright. They have not faced a duo like DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin who will test them vertically down the field. The Bears defensive backs will have opportunities to jump underneath routes if they have trust in the safety support behind them.
The middle of the field will also be a challenge with Tight End Brent Celek and slot receivers Jeremy Maclin and Steve Smith. The Bears linebackers, and nickel back D.J. Moore, have a difficult task keeping the middle of the field covered while also having all eyes on Vick.
In the last Monday night game, the Bears offensive line had trouble against the Lions wide-nine technique; especially against their edge rushers. The Eagles run the same alignment with their linemen, but the difference is the edge rushers are significantly better than what the Bears had to deal with against the Lions. Trent Cole is one of the league’s best pass rushers and Jason Babin—who had a nice season last year—is well on his way to another one.
The Bears starting left and right tackles look as if it will be J’Marcus Webb and Lance Louis (respectively) for at least one more game. It will be intriguing to see if offensive coordinator Mike Martz helps them out with max protection like he did in the Sunday night game against the Vikings. I’m not sure how successful the Bears can be running max protection while sending out only two WRs against a secondary that has probably the second best DB in Nnamdi Asomugha; not to mention two good ball hawks in Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
The Eagles also have a talented tandem at safety in FS Nate Allen and SS Kurt Coleman. Big plays in the passing game will be hard to come by, so the Bears receivers have to take advantage of opportunities when they are there. If the Bears want to win this game, they need to have a successful day on the ground.
The Eagles are 10th in the league against the pass but 19th against the run (118.3 ypg). The weakness on the Eagles defense is the Linebackers; where the wide-nine alignment of the Philly d-line allows offensive linemen to get to the second level on the linebackers, allowing the running back an opportunity for a big play on the ground. If the Bears can get the ground game going, it should open up big plays off the play action.