It’s nearly game time for the Chicago Bears, as they are preparing to take on the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field on Sunday.
The Bears, who are looking to set up a rematch with the Los Angeles Rams if they can win the game, haven’t been in the postseason in eight years, and their first challenge comes in the form of the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles.
To preview the game, here are the five players that the Bears will need to rely on in order to get the victory at Soldier Field.
Howard got off to a really slow start this season, but has been finding his groove of late, rushing for 323 yards and four touchdowns over his last four games of the regular season.
The Eagles are going to try to take the ground game away from the Bears, but Howard could be a key to forcing that gameplan to change. If he can average four to five yards per carry in the game, that’s going to force the Eagles into committing more resources to stop him, and that could open space for players like Anthony Miller and Tarik Cohen in the passing game.
Just how healthy is Jackson? That’s the question that Bears fans have been asking themselves all week, and the answer will likely play a big role in the outcome of Sunday’s game.
If Jackson is near 100 percent, and can take away any deep passes that the Eagles are looking to throw, then their offense becomes even more limited. If he’s limping around, then Foles could have the chance to really carve up the Bears over the middle of the field, and that could put even more pressure on the team’s pass rush to get home against the quick-throwing Foles.
The Bears are going to have their hands full in stopping Fletcher Cox and Michael Bennett, and Long will be a key to keeping Trubisky upright.
After playing in limited action last week, Long should be good to go for the full 60 minutes on Sunday, and if he can help shut down Cox, then Trubisky and company should have plenty of time to pick apart a beleaguered Philadelphia secondary.
Zach Ertz is one of the most explosive tight ends in the NFL, and if he’s going to be shut down on Sunday, the Bears’ linebackers are going to have to be the ones to do it.
That task will likely fall to Smith, who has shown an ability to move into pass coverage and move quickly around the field, and Danny Trevathan, who has mostly moved into a coverage role rather than a pass rushing role this season.
Naturally, the biggest key of all is getting Trubisky into a position where he can be successful in his first career playoff game. That means helping him stay upright in the pocket, giving him outlets if he has to get rid of the ball quickly, and allowing him to run if the situation calls for it.
For Mitch himself, the key will be to not just run at the first sign of trouble, something that he’s been much better about in recent weeks. If he can keep plays alive, his receivers should be able to get open downfield, and he could put up some solid yards against the Eagles.