Run The City From South Philly Back To Chi-Town



EAGLES: They’ve made things interesting and they’ve shown you that they aren’t going down without a fight. Although the record is different compared to last season, it’s almost like Deja vu all over again. Carson Wentz gets hurt again, Nick Foles gets another chance to start and the Eagles win their final three games of the season to get into the playoffs in back to back seasons for the first time in eight seasons. With Nick under center, I’ve seen a completely different football team, throughout most of the regular season, the Eagles had difficulty running the football. Jay Ajayi tore his ACL and he was done for the year. Ever since Foles was inserted back under center, the Eagles ground game has been more consistent with providing balance for the offense and the passing game is beginning to look a lot like it did throughout the year during their title run. As I said in a previous post the other day, one guy can definitely make a difference over the entire team and the Eagles are really benefitting off Foles’ presence. I’ve been critical of the Eagles defense this year because I felt they lacked the intensity from last season but then again, there were a few guys that have dealt with injuries. They enter the postseason hitting their stride when it matters most. I want to explain why it’s so important to have a good backup quarterback. When your starting guy goes down, you need to be able to turn to a guy that knows the system and Nick Foles has been around Doug Pederson for years. When Doug was the offensive coordinator of the Eagles, Nick was the back up. Doug was also the offensive coordinator of the Chiefs, Foles was the backup then. Now that he’s the head coach of the Eagles, he signed him to back up Wentz. Can they keep this moving? The real title defense starts Sunday afternoon in the Windy City.

BEARS: They’ve been the biggest surprise of the 2018 season. A second-year quarterback along with a first-year head coach in Matt Nagy, you usually don’t expect much to happen. Then came September 2nd when the Chicago Bears made a move that changed the dynamic of the entire season. Ryan Pace was aggressive and made a deal to acquire all-pro defensive star Khalil Mack and the rest is history. The Bears haven’t had a star defensive player with such impact on the entire unit since the days of Brian Urlacher who now is in the Hall of Fame. This Bears team has reminded me a lot of the 2006 team that was the best in the NFC that season when they made it to the Super Bowl. They have an offense that just needs to hold onto the ball, a game manager in Mitchell Tribusky and a defense that’s punishing and imposes their will. This has been the most laid-back Bears team that I’ve seen in all my years of watching them. It starts with the coach and Nagy is a younger guy who’s a players’ coach and Tarik Cohen has referred to his head coach as “one of the guys” but with more authority. The defense has a lot of swagger all around and this entire team just has a lot of confidence. I know there’s been a lot of uncertainty surrounding Tribusky, but when he’s good, he’s good. He’s one of the main keys for this team if they want to advance and make a run. The NFC North champs will honest their first playoff game at Soldier Field for the first time since 2011 when they welcome the defending champs to town.

EAGLES PLAYER TO WATCH: Lane Johnson– Yes, I have an offensive lineman as an x-factor for them on Sunday. Those five guys up front protecting your quarterback are football players too. When his mechanics are in sync, he’s the most athletic pass-blocking right tackle in the league today. He’ll have to bring everything when dealing with Khalil Mack in this one. Just two weeks ago when they played the Houston Texans, Lane went to war against J.J. Watt and handled his business. Let’s see what he does here in this one.

BEARS PLAYER TO WATCH: Trey Burton– The former Eagle himself. He was the first big name the Bears signed to give Tribusky a weapon. He’s another threat in the red area, he can line up wide on the perimeter. I have a feeling the Eagles will zoom in a bit on Cohen, so this will allow weapons like Trey and some others to get open and make plays.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Both these head coaches come from the Andy Reid coaching tree. Doug Pederson was Reid’s offensive coordinator in Kansas City as was Matt Nagy. This was the one match up that really had my attention. The Eagles needed the Bears to take care of business against the Vikings, so they could be in this position. A week later, here they are facing each other to wrap up Wild Card weekend. I see Philly coming out early on trying to establish their running game because that’s how you can attack the Bears defensive front. This will then force the Bears to load the box up and Foles can use his play-action to take a shot or two down the field. This Eagles offense is built to attack a zone defense. They usually flood one side of the zone with three receivers (one deep, one intermediate and one underneath). On the other side, they high-low zone defenders with possession receivers or a tight end (Alshon and Ertz). This game also features two of the most innovative defensive coordinators, Vic Fangio and Jim Schwartz. Both are known at throwing you a lot of exotic looks and schemes to confuse you. Nick Foles isn’t the type of quarterback to extend plays with his feet, but he has a knack for extending plays within the pocket. Defensively, the Eagles keep a safety deep and play zone as well. Nagy will implement a game plan that will include pulling blockers, jet sweeps, and blocking tight ends. It’s key that the Eagles secondary and linebackers remain disciplined. The Eagles play zone because of the confidence they have when it comes to their defensive line. The Bears offensive line must be ready to play because when their protection breaks down, it startles Tribusky.