Eagles - Bears Preview: Primetime for Wentz
Carson Wentz had the No. 1 selling jersey in the NFL last week, after his impressive debut in the Philadelphia Eagles Week 1 win over the Cleveland Browns. He even got mentioned by the President of the United States. While that's nice, it won't exactly help him against a real team in Week 2. Adding to the pressure on Wentz, in his second NFL start against the Chicago Bears, is the fact that it will be a primetime game on Monday Night Football. Are you ready for some football, Carson?
Let's take a look at the matchup.
Eagles Offense Versus Bears Defense
Just like they did last week, expect the Eagles to run the ball early and often to keep the defensive pressure off Wentz. The Eagles ran for 133 yards against the Browns and Ryan Mathews had 77 yards and a TD. Unfortunately, he only averaged 3.5 yards per carry. Mathews will need to do a better job against Chicago. The key for Chicago is ILB Danny Trevathan, formerly of the Broncos. He sets the defense and sets the tone in the middle with ILB Jerrell Freeman. The Bears also have run-stopping NT Eddie Goldman, who is going to be a handful for center Jason Kelce.
TE Zach Ertz will miss the game, so expect Wentz to lean heavily on WR Jordan Matthews again. Matthews had 7 catches for 114 yards and a TD last week and the Bears are expected to be without CB Kyle Fuller this week. That leaves CB Tracey Porter as the only experienced CB for the Bears. It's too bad the Eagles don't have much talent to challenge them on the outside. Dorial Green-Beckham is still learning the playbook, Nelson Agholor had one nice catch last week and Josh Huff still stinks. Expect the Eagles to go with plenty of 3-WR sets without Ertz. That will move Matthews into the slot against 5-9 nickel CB Bryce Callahan, where he should have a decisive advantage.
How will Carson Wentz handle his first NFL road game on MNF?
The Bears get their pass rush from their OLBs, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and rookie Leonard Floyd. It's a good thing for Wentz that the NFL is taking its time in making RT Lane Johnson's 10-game PED suspension official. He and LT Jason Peters will have their hands full with the Bears pass rush. Expect TEs Brent Celek and Trey Burton to spend a lot of time blocking on Monday night. Wentz is athletic enough to get outside the pocket, and he throws well on the run, but the Eagles need to keep Wentz clean if they want to have any chance of winning this game.
Hey Lane Johnson
Bears Offense Versus Eagles Defense
Jay Cutler has a bad reputation as a guy who doesn't like getting hit and who doesn't play well in big games. But I saw a stat that he's 5-2 against Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Of course, that record was compiled against bad Detroit Lions and Tennessee Titans teams, so that might not be relevant. The truth is that Cutler has a big-time arm and is coming off a 2015 season where he had the best QB rating of his career at 92.3. Plus, every NFL quarterback is better when he gets good protection, so the Eagles have to hope they can force Cutler into mistakes. He has thrown 142 INTs in 135 career games. Cutler went 16-for-29 for 216 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT last week against Houston.
Jeremy Langford is the new RB in Chicago, after they let Matt Forte leave in free agency. Langford is a true 3-down RB, having played in all but 2 offensive snaps last week. He gained 57 yards and scored a TD last week, behind an offensive line that was still trying to figure things out. LG Josh Stinton was signed a week before the opener and rookie Cody Whitehair is the center. But the Eagles had trouble against the run last week, allowing the Browns to gain 120 yards and average 5.7 yards per rush.
Stinton and R Kyle Long are both former Pro Bowlers, so the Eagles might have trouble getting a push up the middle on Cutler from DTs Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan. The good news is that DEs Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham and Vinnie Curry should have more success against the Bears tackles, Charles Leno and Bobby Massie. There is also the fact that Cutler got sacked five times and hit another 13 times last week. The Bears struggled in the second half against Houston, gaining only 71 yards and scoring no points.
If Cutler gets time to throw, the Eagles could be in trouble. CB Leodis McKelvin has been ruled out for the game. That means that Ron Brooks will slide outside in the base defense and move back inside in the nickel, with rookie seventh round pick, Jalen Mills playing outside CB. This is not a good situation for a team facing a receiving corps of Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White and Eddie Royal. Jeffrey is a 6-3, 218 pound former Pro Bowler who caught 4 passes for 105 yards last week. And now he's going to be covered by a rookie who has played all of 12 snaps in the NFL. Safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are going to be in pass coverage all game, which can only help the Bears running game.
The Eagles still have some of the best coverage units in the NFL and Donnie Jones averaged 49.2 yards - 39.2 net - on six punts last week. Kaleb Sturgis was 2-for-3 on FGs last week, which is about what you expect from him. But he did knock all six of his kickoffs for touchbacks. Pro Bowl punt returner Darren Sproles is a threat to score a TD on every return. The Bears cut kicker Robbie Gould before the season and his replacement, Connor Barth, hit both of his extra points last week without a FG attempt. It is interesting to note that all three of his kickoffs were returned last week. Maybe Eagles kick returner Josh Huff will actually do something this week. The Bears also got a 31-yard punt return from Eddie Royal, so the Eagles will need to be careful with him.
Jon Dorenbos - America's Got Talent - "Go Birds"
Eagles rookie head coach Doug Pederson proved last week that he is nothing like his mentor Andy Reid and that is a very, very good thing when it comes to his ability as a game-day coach. He stuck with the running game and didn't get a single delay of game penalty or waste a timeout. Now let's see how he does in his first road game with a rookie QB. Once again, Jim Schwartz's defense is going to be key to the Eagles chances of escaping Chicago with a win. Bears head coach John Fox is a veteran coach who has a track-record of making big improvements in his second season with a team. While that trend is sure to end with the Bears this season, Fox is still a very good coach. Fic Fangio is also an experienced defensive coordinator who is sure to come up with ways to try to confuse the Eagles rookie QB and rookie play-caller.
The Bears are only favored by 3 at home, so even the odds-makers think this game is a toss-up. Normally I would be worried about a rookie making only his second NFL start, and first on the road, under the bright lights of primetime on Monday Night Football. But Carson Wentz doesn't appear to be the average rookie. He seems to be calm under pressure and mature beyond his limited NFL experience. The Bears are better than the Browns, but they are certainly not a playoff-caliber team. If the Eagles defense can get pressure on Cutler, he will make mistakes. That is the key to the Eagles getting the win in Chicago and another first for rookie Carson Wentz.
Eagles 27 - Bears 20