5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Bears

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5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Bears

The Eagles are coming off a huge win in Dallas last weekend and haven't lost since their Week 2 game against the Chiefs. They're 9-1 for just the fifth time in team history. 

In Chicago, things haven't been going nearly as well. 

The Bears are 3-7 and have lost their last three games in a row. Somewhat impressively, though, their three wins this season have come against the Steelers, Ravens and Panthers, who have a combined 20-10 record. 

So the Eagles aren't taking this game lightly.

"Listen, this is the National Football League and you're seeing it every week. If you don't come ready to play, you'll get your tail beat," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. "This is no different this week. This is a good football team we're playing. Their record might be a different way and they have had some injuries, particularly on defense now, but it's still a good football team, and they probably should have won that game last week and they have been in some close games this year.

"So you can't go to sleep on these [guys]. The one thing I've been proud, most proud of with this team, is we stay in the moment, we stay in the week, and we've got the Bears on Sunday and that's our focus."

Here are five matchups to watch Sunday: 

Jordan Howard vs. Eagles' run D
The Bears aren't very good, but Howard is a stud. The second-year running back has seen his yards-per-carry average dip this season, but he still has 841 yards and five touchdowns through 10 games. 

You'll probably remember that Howard was taken in the fifth round of last year's draft out of Indiana during the one year Joe Douglas was in Chicago. Howard went three spots ahead of where the Eagles took Wendell Smallwood. The Eagles have always said publicly Smallwood was the guy they wanted, but it's fair to wonder. While Smallwood is now a forgotten man in Philadelphia, Howard might be on his way to a second-straight Pro Bowl to start his career. 

The Bears can certainly run the ball, but the Eagles' run defense has been great all season. They gave up 112 rushing yards to the Cowboys last week but had been incredibly good against the run before that. 

"There were some things that we can play a little bit better," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "I think we set that bar awful high. There's some teams in the league that — what did we give up, 110, 112? I think some people might get a pat on the back for that. I think it's a tribute to the players in the locker room that that's a poor performance for them, and they consider it a poor performance."

Even after last week, the Eagles still have the best rushing defense in the NFL, giving up 71.0 yards per game.

Tarik Cohen vs. Mychal Kendricks 
The Bears' other running back, Cohen, is much more of a dual threat. While he has 64 carries for 273 yards and two touchdowns, he also leads the Bears in receptions with 33 that have gone for 264 yards and one touchdown. 

If he can do some damage against the Eagles, it'll probably come through the air. Kendricks has struggled in the past to cover running backs but has been better this season. 

The Eagles have been around the middle of the pack in defending running backs out of the backfield. They have given up 58 catches for 417 yards and four touchdowns to opposing backs this season. 

Eagles' run game vs. Bears' run D
Chicago has the 12th-best run defense in the league and overall, the Bears' defense isn't bad. The Eagles have shown the ability to run the ball down teams' throats this season, though. 

Averaging 144.6 yards per game on the ground, the Eagles have the second-best rushing offense in the NFL. Sure, a lot of times they've been up big so they run the ball. But plenty of times they've been able to control games from running. 

Somehow, last week, the Eagles were able to find a role for all four active running backs. It's hard to imagine that happening every week, but they might try. If nothing else, expect Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and even Corey Clement to play a lot Sunday. 

Mitchell Trubisky vs. Jim Schwartz 
The Trubisky-Carson Wentz comparisons were unavoidable this week. They're different players and were even different prospects, but they went No. 2 a year apart, so it's been a talking point this season. Trubisky didn't begin the year as the Bears' starter, but it didn't take a long time for John Fox to move past Mike Glennon. 

Trubisky has put up pretty modest numbers so far. In six games, he has a 2-4 record, has completed 53 percent of his passes for 988 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. The best number there is the two interceptions. If nothing else, at least he's not turning the ball over. 

"Everybody is different, and every offense is different," Schwartz said about his philosophy for facing rookie quarterbacks. "We adjust on a weekly basis."

It would make some sense, though, if Schwartz tried some different things against the rookie to get him off balance. That doesn't mean zero blitzes all game, but a few added wrinkles that Trubisky hasn't seen might go a long way.  

Alshon Jeffery vs. Prince Amukamara
Earlier this week, Jeffery downplayed the matchup against his former team, but it's going to mean something a little extra to him (see story). That's just human nature. 

The interesting part of this matchup against Amukamara is that Jeffery will draw one of the guys on that defense who he never saw. Amukamara joined the Bears this offseason as Jeffery was coming to Philly. There's not much of a history between Amukamara and Jeffery. Jeffery faced the Giants just one time during his career in Chicago in 2013 and didn't see much of Amukamara. 

Jeffery has started to heat up over the last month. In the last three games, he has 12 catches for 213 yards and four touchdowns. 

Michael Bennett's strong message to NFC East QBs

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Michael Bennett's strong message to NFC East QBs

It wasn't quite a WWE throwdown message, but Michael Bennett definitely put NFC East quarterbacks on notice during his introductory press conference at the NovaCare Complex on Monday afternoon.

He's coming for them.

And so are the rest of his defensive line teammates.

"I know Eli Manning is probably watching this and thinking, like, yes I'm coming," said Bennett, whom the Eagles acquired in a trade with the Seahawks. "I know Dak (Prescott) is watching this like, 'Yeah, he's coming.' Yeah, I am.

"And Alex Smith, he knows he can't run from me. I told him at the Pro Bowl. So it's definitely going to be a great season and it's going to be fun to chase quarterbacks. I just know third down it's just going to be ... and second down and first down, it's just going to be fun."

When Bennett, 32, named all three of the starting quarterbacks from the NFC East, he was actually answering a question about comparing the defensive schemes from Seattle and Philadelphia. Bennett began by saying that he played with some great players in Seattle, before saying he doesn't think there's a tight end in the NFL that can block him.

From there, he started to name the QBs.

Manning in New York. Prescott in Dallas. And recently-acquired Smith in Washington. They'll all be seeing Bennett twice this season.

Bennett is basically replacing Vinny Curry on the Eagles' defensive line, and Haloti Ngata is basically replacing Beau Allen. While Curry and Allen are younger, many think Bennett and Ngata are improvements in the short-term, which means the strength of the Eagles' defense from 2017 is even stronger in 2018.

While Curry had just three sacks in 2017 and has gone over the four-sack mark just once in his six-year career, Bennett has had at least five sacks in all of those last six seasons. Bennett has 48 sacks since 2012 and has been a Pro Bowler in each of his last three seasons.

While there was a report that surfaced saying Seattle was trying to part ways with socially active players, Bennett said he didn't give it much credence. His relationship with Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll goes beyond football and he knows Seattle was just trying to unload him to get something back in return; it's part of the business.

It seems likely that in Philly, Bennett will get a chance to play both inside and outside. His versatility was used in a similar fashion in Seattle, but he also played a ton of snaps, which he won't have to do in the Eagles' rotation. It should keep him fresh.

And it will probably keep opposing quarterbacks up at night.

Eagles' season opener will be a juicy rematch

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Eagles' season opener will be a juicy rematch

These poor Minnesotans can't seem to get rid of Philly.

First, the Eagles spanked their Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, then the Eagles won a Super Bowl two weeks later in their stadium. And now the Vikings have to open up the 2018 NFL season back at the Linc.

The Eagles are going to host the Vikings on Thursday, Sept. 6 at Lincoln Financial Field to open the NFL calendar, according to Howard Eskin.

Of course, the last time the Vikings came to the Linc they scored the first touchdown of the game before the Eagles scored the next 38 points to crush the No. 2 seed in the NFC, 38-7.

After Kyle Rudolph caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum early in the first quarter, the Eagles' defense clamped down and the offense, led by Nick Foles, exploded. The biggest play of the game (one of the biggest of the season) was Patrick Robinson's 50-yard pick-6 later in the first quarter. The Eagles took a 24-7 lead into the locker room and halftime and much of the second half became a party on the sideline and in the stands, where a "Foles-Skol" chant broke out several times.

Of course, the Vikings are going to look different this time. Case Keenum has moved on to Denver, and the Vikings brought in Kirk Cousins from Washington. In his career against the Eagles, Cousins is 4-3 with a passer rating of 99.7.

The full NFL schedule probably won't be released until mid-April. We also know the Eagles will face the Jaguars in London on either Oct. 21 or 28.

Here are the teams the Eagles will face in 2018: