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. 

Facing misconduct investigation, Panthers owner selling team

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Facing misconduct investigation, Panthers owner selling team

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Facing a growing investigation that accuses him of sexual misconduct and using racist language at work, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced Sunday that he will sell the NFL team after the season.

The team announced on Twitter that Richardson is selling the team, linking to a five-paragraph letter by the franchise's only owner.

"I believe it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership," Richardson wrote, saying he wouldn't begin discussions until after the season. The Panthers, who lost in the Super Bowl in 2016, are in playoff position again.

"I hope everyone in the organization, both on and off the field, will be firmly focused on one mission: to play and win the Super Bowl," said Richardson, 81.

The NFL awarded Richardson, a former player with the Baltimore Colts, an expansion franchise in 1993, and he has been the team's only owner.

Richardson's letter did not directly address the investigation.

"There has been no greater mission or purpose in my life than to have brought and NFL franchise to Charlotte," Richardson wrote. "The obstacles back then were significant and some even questioned whether or community could or would support professional football. But I always knew that if given the chance the Carolina would rise to the occasion. And you have. The team has become an integral part of the community. The stadium is in its best condition since the day it opened."

Richardson attended the game Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers at Bank of America Stadium and was photographed sitting beside his wife Rosalind in his luxury box.

He did not speak to reporters.

"While I will no longer be the team owner, I will always be the Panthers Number One fan," Richardson's letter said.

The Panthers are tied to Charlotte through June of 2019.

The city of Charlotte and the Panthers reached agreement on improvements for the team's stadium in 2013. The plan called for the city to contribute about $87 million for renovations to Bank of America Stadium in exchange for a six-year deal to keep the Panthers in Charlotte.

The money is less than what the team was seeking for improvements of the stadium, which opened in 1996. Forbes estimates the Panthers worth at $2.3 billion.

Richardson's announcement comes after a Sports Illustrated report that cited unnamed sources who said Richardson made sexually suggestive comments to women and on at least one occasion directed a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout. The report states that the settlements came with non-disclosure requirements forbidding the parties from discussing the details.

The NFL on Sunday said it has taken over the investigation of allegations of workplace misconduct. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had no comment on the report.

Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said Sunday the team requested the league take over the investigation.

"We thought it would be best for transparency reasons," Drummond told The Associated Press.

The investigation was originally going to be led by the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP, and overseen by Erskine Bowles, a minority owner with the Panthers.

Drummond said in a release that the Panthers take these allegations very seriously and are committed to a full investigation.

"The entire organization is fully committed to ensuring a safe, comfortable and diverse work environment where all individuals, regardless of sex, race, color, religion, gender, or sexual identity or orientation, are treated fairly and equally," Drummond said.

The Panthers began play in 1995 but have never delivered on Richardson's promise of winning a Super Bowl. They lost after the 2003 and 2015 seasons.

The Panthers are 10-4 entering the final two weeks of the regular season and well positioned for a playoff run.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, like most of the team's players, hadn't read the details of the report that came out just as the Panthers were preparing to play the Green Bay Packers.

Newton said Richardson has served in a "father-like role" for him since his arrival in Carolina seven years ago.

"For me I hope things don't alter my thinking of Mr. Richardson," Newton said. "But I do know that he has given me some things that I will forever be appreciative of."

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after the game it is important to let the process play out, but vouched for Richardson's character.

"The only thing I can speak on is for what he has been to me as far as I'm concerned," Rivera said. "A lot of you know I had a house fire and he was there for (my wife) Stephanie and I. He was tremendous in supporting us. My brother passed and Mr. Richardson was there and helped me get to the funeral and back. I can't speak to anything other than that."

It has been a whirlwind year for the Panthers organization.

Team president Danny Morrison abruptly resigned in February. Richardson then fired general manager Dave Gettleman on the eve of training camp and replaced him with former general manager Marty Hurney on an interim basis. It was a surprising move considering Carolina made the playoffs three times in four seasons under Gettleman.

Vikings' win means Eagles must wait for homefield advantage

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Vikings' win means Eagles must wait for homefield advantage

MINNEAPOLIS -- Eric Kendricks had an interception return for a touchdown, Case Keenum passed for 236 yards and two scores, and the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North title with a 34-7 victory over the depleted and disinterested Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon combined for 37 touches and 242 yards from scrimmage for the Vikings (11-3), who were given quite the reprieve on the schedule a week after their eight-game winning streak ended at Carolina in the last of three consecutive road trips. They were never challenged by a Bengals team missing more than half of its starting defense to injuries and met with a morning report by ESPN that head coach Marvin Lewis will not return next season.

The game went so smoothly that Teddy Bridgewater even made his grand entrance, his first live action in 16 months since a massive knee injury. Bridgewater's first pass was intercepted, a high throw that bounced off McKinnon's hands and into the arms of strong safety Shawn Williams deep in Vikings territory. That set up a short touchdown run by Giovani Bernard to keep the Bengals from being shut out for a second time this year.

Terence Newman also picked off former teammate Andy Dalton, who went just 11 for 22 for 113 yards and three first downs before the Bengals (5-9) turned to backup quarterback A.J. McCarron midway through the fourth quarter after the interception by Williams (see full recap).

Brady, Patriots do it again to Steelers
PITTSBURGH -- Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski did it to the Pittsburgh Steelers again.

One questionable decision by Ben Roethlisberger helped.

Brady fed Gronkowski repeatedly to set up Dion Lewis' go-ahead 8-yard touchdown with 56 seconds remaining and Roethlisberger was intercepted in the end zone with 5 seconds left as the New England Patriots rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24 on Sunday.

The Patriots (11-3) gained the inside track for homefield advantage in the AFC playoffs by ending Pittsburgh's eight-game winning streak. Brady threw for 298 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Gronkowski, fresh off a one-game suspension, finished with nine receptions for 168 yards, including four on the game-winning drive.

It briefly looked like it wouldn't be enough.

The Steelers (11-3), who played most of the game without injured wide receiver Antonio Brown, appeared to take the lead when Roethlisberger connected with tight end Jesse James for a 10-yard touchdown with 28 seconds to left. The play was overturned on review, with official Tony Corrente saying the ball did not "survive" the completion of the catch (see full recap).

Rams rout Seattle for control of division
SEATTLE -- Todd Gurley rushed for 152 yards and scored four total touchdowns in just 2 quarters, and the Los Angeles Rams moved to the cusp of their first division title since 2003 with a 42-7 thumping of the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

The matchup to determine first place in the NFC West was completely one-sided.

Los Angeles (10-4) was dominant, embarrassing Seattle into the worst loss during Pete Carroll's eight seasons in charge.

Taking advantage of field position, the Rams scored on six of seven first-half drives, including a 21-point scoring blitz in the second quarter capped by a 57-yard TD run by Gurley on third-and-20 with less than a minute remaining in the first half to take a 34-0 lead at the break.

Gurley had 144 yards rushing in the first half, twice scoring from the 1. He added a 14-yard TD reception midway through the third quarter for a 40-0 Rams lead and spent the rest of his day watching. The 152 yards rushing were the second-best of his career.

The Rams don't have the division wrapped up, but have a two-game lead with two weeks to play. A win against either Tennessee or San Francisco is enough for their first division title in 14 years (see full recap).

Saints beat Jets for 10th win
NEW ORLEANS -- Mark Ingram ran for two touchdowns and gained 151 yards from scrimmage, including a late 50-yard TD run, and the New Orleans Saints overcame three turnovers to defeat the struggling New York Jets, 31-19 on Sunday.

Michael Thomas became the second NFL player with at least 90 receptions in his first two seasons. He caught nine passes for 93 yards, including a pivotal fourth-quarter touchdown on a short slant for New Orleans (10-4), which retained its tenuous hold on first place in the NFC South heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

Alvin Kamara turned a short catch into a 10-yard TD in his return from a concussion that knocked him out of the Saints' loss at Atlanta a week earlier.

Bryce Petty made his first start at quarterback this season for the Jets (5-9), who were eliminated from playoff contentions. Petty completed 19 of 39 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice -- once on a tipped pass and once on a long, inconsequential throw as the game ended.

His 2-yard touchdown pass to former Louisiana-Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire cut New Orleans' lead to 24-19 with 1:51 left. But the Jets' onside kick failed and Ingram broke loose for his long score while the Saints were really just trying to run down the clock (see full recap).