Fri, Dec 20, 12:32pm by Ed Scimia
Match: Chicago Bears (8-6) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (8-6)
When & where: 12.15pm (AEST) Monday, December 23, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
Wager with: Sportingbet.com.au – new customers receive a $200 free bet
AT the end of the upcoming game between the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles, either of these teams could have already clinched a division title and a playoff berth – or either could need a win in Week 17 just to stay in the playoffs.
Both teams find themselves in heated battles for their respective division titles, and neither has a good enough record to fall back on a wild card spot to make the playoffs.
The Eagles are still in the pole position when it comes to winning the NFC East. They hold a one game lead over the Dallas Cowboys even after their surprising loss to the Minnesota Vikings last week. That means that even should the Eagles lose to the Bears, they’ll have a chance next week to settle their score in a head-to-head battle with the Cowboys on the final day of the season.
Meanwhile, Chicago has won two straight games to surprisingly find themselves at the top of the NFC North. But their lead is tenuous: the Green Bay Packers are only a half-game behind, and with quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ return imminent, the Bears may not be able to afford a loss if they want to win the division.
Speaking of getting a star quarterback back on the field, Chicago’s own Jay Cutler made his return to the starting lineup last weekend against the Cleveland Browns. Cutler’s return wasn’t an automatic decision, as many felt that backup Josh McCown deserved to keep playing after filling in well over the past four weeks. But head coach Marc Trestman went with his original starter, and though Cutler started off by throwing two interceptions, he ultimately threw three touchdown passes in a 38-31 win.
The Bears will need that kind of performance again from Cutler against the Eagles, as Philadelphia is capable of scoring fast and often. Luckily, the Eagles have also shown that they can give up points in bunches, so Cutler will look to take advantage of his many great targets – ranging from wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery to tight end Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte – to turn this game into a shootout.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles suffered a disappointing loss last week to the Vikings, which brought their five-game winning streak to an end. While the offence continued to produce, the defense struggled, allowing 48 points to what had been one of the weakest offensive units in the league. They will need to make changes to contain the talented Bears offence.
Not that the Eagles are afraid of entering into a shootout. Behind quarterback Nick Foles, Philadelphia has scored at least 24 points in each of their last six games. The Eagles offence is just as potent on the ground as in the air, as running back LeSean McCoy leads the NFL in rushing yardage. To counter this, the Bears are hoping to get Linebacker Lance Briggs back from his shoulder injury, though his availability is still in question.
With two potent offences matching up against questionable defenses, there simply isn’t much to choose from between these teams. However, the Eagles are playing at home, and despite their aberration last week, I believe they have truly turned a corner on their season over the past month. Although it is close, I believe they are the better team in this game, and that’s enough for me to take them even giving the three points. An upset isn’t out of the question, but I expect the Bears to face a must win game against the Packers in Week 17, while the Eagles can at least hope for the Cowboys to lose this week so that they can clinch their division title a week early (though I expect that division to come down to a final week battle as well).
Prediction: Philadelphia 34, Chicago 27
Picks: Philadelphia -3, Over 56 with Sportingbet.com.au
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