Both the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles are spending some quality time looking up at other teams in the standings. After their early season slump, the Eagles are stuck in a three-way tie for second place in the NFC East, while the Bears are stuck behind the defending champion Green Bay Packers and the surprising Detroit Lions in the NFC North. If either team is to have a fighting chance at having more teams look up at them, they will need to make a statement in their Monday clash at Lincoln Financial Field.
After starting the season 1-4, the Eagles seem to have signs of renewed life, after both their bye week and their 34-7 thumping of the Dallas Cowboys. In that game, the Eagles defense made the Cowboys look like all hype, holding them to 267 total yards and 10 first downs. Even better, their defensive prowess allowed them to control the clock for over 42 minutes. If the Eagles are to resuscitate their hopes for a dream season, they will need these trends to continue.
Despite their seeming resurgence, the Eagles are not out of the woods yet. Their win against the Cowboys was their first victory at home, and their defense still has a lot to prove; their performance against the Cowboys was only the third time this season that they had managed to hold an opponent under 24 points. In addition, they still sit two games behind the division leading New York Giants.
Crucial to the Eagles success is the effectiveness of QB Michael Vick who was a pre-season favorite for NFL MVP. Vick has had an inconsistent season thus far, but he posted his most effective performance of the season against Dallas, completing 75% of his passes for 279 yards and no interceptions. That performance marked the first time since the season-opener against the St. Louis Rams that Vick has gone without a pick. If the Eagles top-ranked running attack can maintain its effectiveness, Vick may have enough time in the pocket to have another no-pick performance.
Like the Eagles, the Bears come into Monday's match-up riding a two game winning streak. They are also coming off of a bye week, and the Bears are 4-2 since 2005 when coming off of a bye. However, they haven't fared particularly well on the road thus far in 2011, with two of their three loses coming on hostile turf.
In addition, the Bears will need to have an improved defensive attack. While the Bears have been historically renowned for their gritty defense, it seems to have abandoned them this year; they currently allow 114.7 rushing yards a game, 16th best in the league, and 271.9 passing yards a game, fifth worst in the NFL. The defense will have to do better against the potent Eagles offensive attack.
The Bears' own offensive attack will also have to pick-up. While the Bears did manage a win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it wasn't because of Jay Cutler. Against the Bucs, Cutler could only complete 17-32 passes, and completed two more to the Bucs defense. Like Vick, Cutler has been having an inconsistent season, posting two games with QB ratings over 100 and one over 99, but also having three games with a QB rating under 67.3.
Monday's game marks the second time in a year that the Eagles and Bears have faced off. In their last meeting on November 28th, 2010, the Bears eked out a 31-26 victory at Soldier Field. This has been part of a recent trend for the Bears, as they have won 3 of the last 4 meetings against the Eagles since 2007. They also won the last time they visited Philadelphia, and have not lost there since 2000.
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