The Chicago Bears will play their first playoff game in eight years on Sunday as they welcome the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to Soldier Field.
The Bears are the betting favorites in the game and have gotten plenty of national love this week, but the Eagles are a team playing its best football of the season, and will look to take a step toward a second championship in a row.
Before the two teams hit the field, here are Three Keys to Victory for the Bears:
Stop the Eagles’ Pass Rush
The Eagles are the only team in the NFL this season with four players who had at least 10 quarterback hurries, and they will be looking to throttle up the pressure on Mitchell Trubisky early and often in the game.
The Bears will especially have to be careful of Fletcher Cox, an absolute menace up the center of the line who plays a similar game to Aaron Donald, and Michael Bennett, who can bring pressure off the edge in all situations.
The addition of Kyle Long to the team’s offensive line should help with the latter, but it will be fascinating to see how the Bears handle Cox. Will they start Michael Burton at fullback, giving James Daniels and Cody Whitehair extra help, or will they try to use Jordan Howard as a pass blocker and rely on Trubisky to get the ball out fast?
Either strategy has benefits and drawbacks, and the Bears will have to really gameplan hard to get the job done.
Will the Accurate Mitchell Trubisky Please Stand Up?
The idea of there being a “good Trubisky” and a “bad Trubisky” has been one oft discussed this season, as he can go from throwing nine touchdowns in a two game stretch (like he did against the Buccaneers and Dolphins) to barely completing half of his passes and throwing a pair of interceptions in a loss to the Patriots just one week later.
Those are part of the learning curve for a second year quarterback, but here’s a statistic that should make Bears fans happy.
In his last three games, Trubisky has registered a 109.7 passer rating, completing roughly 75 percent of his passes for 644 yards and three touchdowns. He also hasn’t thrown an interception in any of those three games.
If the Bears can get that Trubisky, then they should be in great shape against a secondary that will yield some serious passing yards. If not, the Bears might struggle, as the Eagles are great on the pass rush and are also one of the NFL’s run defenses.
Take Away Nick Foles’ Main Strategies
The Bears have a really good secondary, but Foles is not going to be trying to throw the ball deep and burn the Bears with the Eagles’ talented receivers.
Instead, Foles will likely rely on short, quick passes to his receivers, and will utilize tight end Zach Ertz early and often in the game. He set an NFL record for most receptions by a tight end with 116 this season, and the Bears will have their hands full trying to stop him.
The big question for Chicago will center around whether they can play physically enough at the line of scrimmage to jam up the Philadelphia receivers. If they can do that, they’ll give players like Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks time to get to Foles and disrupt his timing.