Eagles-Bears scouting report and prediction | Paul Domowitch
A breakdown of Sunday's game at Lincoln Financial Field, including key matchups and keys to the game.
The Eagles will play their first home game since Oct. 6 when they face the Chicago Bears at 1 p.m. Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Here’s an in-depth breakdown of the game.
When the Eagles run
The Eagles (4-4) are coming off their most productive rushing day of the Doug Pederson era. They rushed for 218 yards on 41 carries against Buffalo, including a season-high 96 by Jordan Howard. Howard, who was traded by the Bears during the offseason for a fifth-round pick, is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, his best rush average since his rookie season in 2016.
Howard has become the Eagles’ primary ballcarrier. He averaged 15 rush attempts in the last five games. Rookie Miles Sanders is being utilized more as a pass-catcher, though he had a 65-yard touchdown run against Buffalo on one of his three carries.
The Bears (3-4) have been very good against the run this season. They’re sixth in yards allowed per game (86.0) and fourth in opponent rush average (3.6). They are fifth in first-down opponent rush average (3.7) and have allowed a league-fewest 11 runs of 10 yards or more. They shut down the Eagles’ ground game in the playoffs last January, holding them to 1.8 yards per carry.
But the Eagles didn’t have Howard or Sanders then. They do now.
When the Eagles throw
There’s a good possibility the Eagles finally will get wide receiver DeSean Jackson back Sunday, and that would be a huge shot in the arm to Carson Wentz and the passing game. Wentz threw for 313 yards and three TDs, including 51- and 53-yard scoring bombs to Jackson, in the Eagles’ Week 1 win over Washington.
Since Jackson’s core muscle injury in Week 2, Wentz has averaged just 6.7 yards per attempt and has 11 TD passes in seven games. Wentz threw for fewer than 200 yards in four of the last five games. On the plus side, he had just two interceptions in the last six games.
Nobody will be happier to see Jackson return than tight end Zach Ertz, who has been the focus of much more defensive attention since Jackson got hurt.
The Bears have one of the league’s best pass defenses. Khalil Mack is a lethal pass-rusher who likely will spend much of the game over rookie left tackle Andre Dillard. Cornerback Kyle Fuller has three interceptions. The Bears have given up just seven TD passes, and the sixth-fewest 20-plus-yard pass plays in the league (19).
When the Bears run
The Bears’ ground game has struggled mightily this season. They are 26th in rushing (just 83.1 yards per game) and 27th in rush average (3.6). That’s 38 yards per game and a half-yard-per-carry less than last year. The Bears are 23rd in first-down rushing, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry, and their eight runs of 10 yards or more are the fewest in the NFL.
Third-round rookie David Montgomery is a tackle-breaker with good balance, but he lacks explosiveness and speed. He’s averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. Tarik Cohen’s strength is out in open space as a pass-catcher, not as a rusher, as he’s averaging just 2.3 yards per carry.
The Eagles are eighth in run defense (90.5 yards per game) and opponent rush average (3.9) but have struggled of late. In their last three games , they gave up 136.3 yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry.
Opponents averaged 5.2 yards per carry on first down in the last three games. They did a good job on the Bills’ Frank Gore, holding him to 20 yards on seven carries in the first half and 34 yards on nine carries overall.
When the Bears throw
The Bears offense is struggling, and no one is struggling more than quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. He’s 28th in overall passing (81.4) and 24th in third-down passing (73.1). He’s got just five touchdown passes in 195 pass attempts.
In two games since returning from a dislocated (non-throwing) shoulder, he has averaged just 5.6 yards per attempt and thrown two touchdown passes. He has completed just 41.1% of his attempts when he’s been under pressure.
The Bears have just 17 pass plays of 20-plus yards, fifth fewest in the league. Allen Robinson has a team-high 46 catches and three touchdowns. Running back Tarik Cohen is averaging just 5.8 yards on 32 catches. Last year, he averaged 10.2.
The Eagles are getting healthy on the back end at just the right time. Both of their starters, Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby, are back, and they’re getting versatile Avonte Maddox back this week. The Eagles acquired edge-rusher Genard Avery from the Browns this week, and are hoping he can add some juice to the pass rush.
Jake Elliott is one of just four kickers in the league who still hasn’t missed a field-goal attempt. He has made nine. Twenty-eight of his last 35 kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks. He’ll need to keep that touchback percentage high again against the Bears’ Cordarrelle Patterson, who leads the league in kick-return average (32.1) and had a 102-yard return for a touchdown two weeks ago against the Saints.
Eagles punter Cam Johnston is third in net average (43.4). Over the last four games, just six of his 19 punts have been returned for a total of 30 yards. Bears punt returner Tarik Cohen is averaging a league-best 11.9 yards per return.
The Bears got rid of kicker Cody Parkey after the double-doink in the playoff loss to the Eagles. His replacement, Eddy Piñeiro, has made 12 of 15 attempts. But he had 33- and 41-yard misses last Sunday in a one-point loss to the Chargers.
Punter Pat O’Donnell is 26th in net average (40.7) and had a punt blocked two weeks ago in a loss to the Saints.
After being on the road for the last three weeks, the Eagles finally are back home, which is a good thing unless they dig themselves another early hole and the Linc crowd turns on them. The Bears are struggling. They’ve lost three in a row, including the last two at home, and their offense is struggling.
Eagles 20, Bears 17
Eagles LT Andre Dillard vs. Bears OLB Khalil Mack: Mack is one of the league’s best edge-rushers. While he lines up on both sides, he’ll likely spend a lot of time on the first-round rookie’s side. ADVANTAGE: Bears
Eagles coverage teams vs. Bears KR Cordarrelle Patterson and PR Tarik Cohen: An important matchup. Patterson leads the league in kick-return average (32.1), and Cohen leads in punt-return average (11.9). ADVANTAGE: Bears
Eagles DT Fletcher Cox and DE Brandon Graham vs. Bears RG Ted Larsen/Rashaad Coward and RT Bobby Massie: Cox and Graham are the keys to the Eagles’ pass rush. The pair are coming off excellent performances vs. the Bills. Larsen hasn’t played since Week 4 because of a knee injury. ADVANTAGE: Eagles
Keys to the game
Prevent a Mack attack. The Eagles need to stop Khalil Mack from becoming a difference-maker, whether it’s by giving rookie left tackle Andre Dillard a lot of chip help, using a heavy dose of RPOs, or rolling Carson Wentz away from Mack.
The special-teams battle. Eagles kicker Jake Elliott hasn’t missed a field-goal attempt, and the Bears’ Eddy Piñeiro missed two of them last week, including a 41-yarder that would have won the game. The Eagles’ coverage units are going up against the league’s top punt and kick returners in Cohen and Patterson.
Early bird catches the worm. The Eagles defense has not played well early in games this season. It might be the biggest reason they’re 4-4. They’ve given up 51 first-quarter points and allowed teams to score first-possession points in six of their eight games. They can’t afford to play catch-up Sunday against a team with a defense the caliber of the Bears'.