Eagles wary of Bears despite sub-.500 record
With the NFL's best record and one of its best players, quarterback Carson Wentz, the Philadelphia Eagles are on a roll.
The Eagles (9-1) welcome the Bears (3-7) to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon surrounded by a euphoria that is rare in a town where its hard-scrabble, blue-collar fans have been viewed nationally as persistently unhappy -- even when the team is good.
After Sunday's 37-9 rout of the host Cowboys, where they laughed off another potential NFC East challenger as if they were the scrawny and disheveled Santa Claus that Eagles fans once so infamously booed, the talk around town isn't about making the Super Bowl but more centered on parading the Lombardi Trophy down Broad Street.
Well, unless you're talking to head coach Doug Pederson.
"If you don't come ready to play, you'll get your tail beat," Pederson, who could point to the Bears' Week 3 win over the now 8-2 Steelers, said Wednesday when asked if the Eagles would be overconfident against Chicago.
Coach-speak aside, the Eagles certainly have plenty to feel good about while seeking a ninth straight victory.
First, there's Wentz, the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft who leads the NFL with 25 touchdowns and is fourth with a 103.4 rating.
It certainly helps the Eagles' second-year quarterback and his third-ranked offense that he has so many weapons at his disposal -- perhaps too many on another team where egos are put ahead of winning.
There's the backfield combination of Jay Ajayi (168 yards, one TD in two games), plucked from the disarrayed Dolphins three weeks ago for a fourth-round pick, LeGarrette Blount (team-leading 561 yards) and undrafted rookie Corey Clement (tied for team lead with six TDs).
Kenjon Barner, another running back, scored a touchdown against the Cowboys.
Outside, the Eagles are led by former Bears standout Alshon Jeffery, whose 567 receiving yards and six touchdowns are solid but not quite Pro Bowl worthy like in one of his five years in Chicago. That's because Wentz is spreading the ball around to Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins and Trey Burton.
Did we mention tight end Zach Ertz and his 536 yards and six touchdowns?
The combined gaudy numbers explain much of the winning, but so does the attitude of the players.
"This is a very unselfish football team right now," Pederson said. "It's a combination of all of them. It doesn't matter who makes the play."
Defensively, the Eagles also are stout, ranking seventh overall and first against the run.
They will need to be strong up front against the Bears, who are one of the league's top rushing attacks.
Second-year Chicago back Jordan Howard leads the NFC with 841 yards and shifty rookie back Tarik Cohen has a team-best 33 catches.
They also have developing rookie Mitchell Trubisky, the No. 2 pick in this year's draft, under center. Coach John Fox can only hope that Trubisky's ascent is similar to Wentz's. In his six starts, the University of North Carolina product has completed 53.1 percent of his passes for 988 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions -- though none in his last two outings.
It wouldn't hurt if one of his targets still was Jeffery, who left the Bears this offseason to sign a one-year deal with the Eagles. Jeffery might have been on to something when he guaranteed his team would win the Super Bowl this season after the Bears went 3-13 in 2016.
It's not the same team, but the prediction still may hold.
"Hindsight is always 20-20," Fox said Wednesday when asked if he wished he still had Jeffery. "He's a guy we liked. We did talk to him. It's not like we weren't in the mix."
If it comes down to a kicking game, both teams have interesting situations. Chicago cut Connor Barth on Monday after he missed a 46-yard field goal that would've sent the game to overtime in its 27-24 loss to the Lions. In his place, the Bears signed Cairo Santos, a career 85 percent field-goal kicker who was injured (groin) in Week 3 with the Chiefs.
Philadelphia's Jake Elliott was concussed early in the Eagles win at Dallas, forcing the Eagles to go for two points on four of their touchdowns. Pederson said he expects Elliott to play. If not, Caleb Sturgis, whom Elliott unseated due to a Week 1 hip injury, could replace him.
Updated November 22, 2017