When all is said and done on Sunday, the Chicago Bears could be crowned as the champions of the NFC North division.
Under that scenario, the Green Bay Packers would need to lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Detroit Lions would need to lose to the New York Giants. The Packers are eliminated from playoff contention with a loss to the Steelers and a Bears victory over the Eagles. The Lions would be eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday if both the Packers and Bears win.
The only team in the NFC North division that can’t be eliminated from playoff contention this week is the Bears; one of the many perks of a team controlling their destiny with only two games remaining in the regular season.
If the Packers win and Lions lose, then the week 17 match-up between the Bears and Packers will determine the winner of the NFC North division regardless of the outcome of the Bears game against the Eagles. If that were the case, Bears head coach Marc Trestman did not rule out the idea of resting players against the Eagles in anticipation of the division-deciding game against the Packers.
The benefit for the Bears is that they have the night game on Sunday against the Eagles. Meaning the Bears will know exactly what they have to do in order to clinch the NFC North division. In any event, it would still be in the best interest for the Bears to win their final two games of the season. Beyond being the less complex way of making the playoffs, a win by the Bears on Sunday against the Eagles would eliminate at least one NFC North rival from playoff contention.
That has been the Eagles weakness this season. The Eagles are the 31st ranked pass defense in the NFL with opposing teams throwing for 291.6 passing yards per game. That figures to play right into the hands of the Bears. With two potential pro-bowl wide receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery on each side of him, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler should have a successful night against the Eagles defense. The only thing Cutler needs to avoid are the errant throws that went for interceptions last week in the team’s game against the Cleveland Browns.
The concern is that the Bears weakness plays right into the hands of the Eagles. The Eagles are the top rushing offense in the NFL this season with an average of 152.9 rushing yards per game. The Bears are worst ranked defense against the run with opposing teams averaging 152.4 rushing yards per game. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, the NFL’s leading rusher, has likely had this game circled on his calendar for weeks.
Bears weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs is returning tonight and that should bring some improvement for the team in terms of their defense against the run.
Call me crazy but I see Cutler and the Bears offense leading the team to victory over the Eagles on Sunday. This game will be a shootout and likely will not be decided until the fourth quarter. But remember, Cutler’s alter-ego goes by the name of “Mr. Fourth Quarter”.
Start Time: 7:15 p.m.
Television Channel: NBC 5
Radio Station: WBBM 780 AM
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra