Eagles

Eagles-Bears predictions

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Eagles-Bears predictions

Last Sunday night proved easier than expected.

Fresh off a 37-9 whooping of the Cowboys in Dallas, the Eagles return home to kick off against the Chicago Bears at Lincoln Financial Field (1 p.m./FOX).

Here are our expert predictions for the Week 12 matchup:

Reuben Frank (10-0)
This one could get ugly fast. Heck, lately, they’ve all been ugly. The Eagles have won three straight games by 23 or more points, and I fully expect that streak to increase to four Sunday. There have been only 12 instances in NFL history where a team has won four straight games by 23 or more points, most recently the 2004 Colts. Before that the 1961 Packers did it and so did the 1993 49ers. So if the Eagles do indeed blow out the Bears, they’ll be only the fourth team in the last 64 years to win four straight games by 23 or more points. The Eagles are just demolishing people right now, winning these last three by a combined 79 points. The Bears, meanwhile, come into Philly having lost three straight games and averaging just 15.3 points on offense this year, just 13.3 on the road. They’ve scored just six offensive touchdowns on the road all year. The Eagles have scored 21 offensive TDs at home. Blowout City.

Eagles 49, Bears 12

Dave Zangaro (8-2)
There's no such thing as a "trap game" for this Eagles team. 

So feel free to spend your day worrying about their focus against an inferior Bears team, but don't feel the need to. The Eagles aren't looking past the Bears, which means they're going to crush them. 

The Eagles had a bad half against the Cowboys and were still able to smoke them last week. If they come out just a little bit hotter Sunday afternoon, they'll put the Bears away early and keep the gas pedal to the floor. This Eagles team can taste blood in the water and there's a good chance they'll get the Bears bleeding early. 

Sure, Chicago's defense is OK and they can run the football. But the Eagles have scored 30-plus points in the last four games and the Bears haven't scored more than 27 all season. They're not going to be able to keep up. 

The Eagles win this one easy. 

Eagles 34, Bears 6

Derrick Gunn (9-1)
Their record says the Bears are a 3-7 team, but their play on the field shows they can be competitive. The Bears have lost their last three games by eight, seven and three points. Their three wins this season have been against Pittsburgh (in overtime), Baltimore and Carolina. They have an impressive run game that averages 131.8 yards, which is fifth-best in the league, featuring second-year back Jordan Howard, who is third in the league in rushing with 84.1 yards per game, and rookie Tarik Cohen. Both average over four yards per carry. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has shown promise, but he's still a rookie and prone to make mistakes. Chicago's offense averages just 17.4 points. Their defense is ranked 11th and can get after the quarterback with 29 sacks, tied for fourth-best in the league.

Unfortunately for the Bears, they are running into a red-hot Eagles squad that is firing on all cylinders on both sides of the ball. Carson Wentz and his crew are shredding defenses and the Birds’ defense is making Sundays miserable for opposing offenses. 

I look for this to be an entertaining game for maybe the first 30 minutes, then I expect the Birds to send the Bears into hibernation. 

Eagles 30, Bears 14 

Ray Didinger (9-1)
Last Sunday, the Eagles' offense went three-and-out on five straight possessions, looked totally out of sync for a half and they still beat the Dallas Cowboys by four touchdowns. That's pretty scary. They are averaging 32 points, most in the league, and they are allowing just 18.8 points a game. Crunch the numbers however you like, the bottom line is the same. The Eagles are the best team in football.

The Chicago Bears limp into town this week with a rookie quarterback (Mitchell Trubisky) and a 3-7 record. The Bears' coaches have done all they can to help Trubisky, calling lots of running plays with Jordan Howard (841 yards, third in the league) but no one has success running against the Eagles so this looks like a long day for the Bears. Their defense keeps them in most games, but they just don't have enough weapons on offense. It will be the same story this week. 

Eagles 28, Bears 12

Andrew Kulp (9-1)
In order to believe this might be a trap game, you would first have to believe one of two things. Either the Eagles are not as good as their record indicates, and a vastly inferior opponent such as the Bears can actually pose a threat. Or the Eagles, as a team, don't possess the correct mindset to focus on the task ahead and are susceptible to going on autopilot for a week.

I'm 100 percent confident the latter isn't true. The immense leadership in the locker room and overwhelming quantity of self-motivated players makes it hard to believe this team would take anybody lightly. That means an upset would require the Bears to have the talent to take advantage of some weakness on the Eagles. I have a hard time seeing that.

Yes, the Bears are better than their 3-7 record would suggest, but unless they can limit the Eagles' offense to fewer than 20 points, I don't see how they score enough points to win. And considering the Bears have only held two opponents under 20 all season, and the Eagles have yet to post fewer than 20, the prospect seems highly unlikely. Trap game, schmap game.

Eagles 30, Bears 10

Corey Seidman (7-3)
The Bears play sneaky good defense but have little else. They barely throw downfield and have zero weapons on the outside. 

This is probably the Eagles’ easiest game left. 

Eagles 35, Bears 6

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Carson Wentz is out, Nick Foles is in. 

And the Eagles claim their offense isn't going to change. 

On it's face, that seems somewhat absurd. After all, Wentz is more than an average quarterback. He's the face of the Eagles' franchise and was an MVP candidate through 13 weeks. Foles was once a Pro Bowler, but there's a reason he wasn't a starter entering this season. 

So how will the offense look different? 

"I don't expect it will look different at all," Foles said adamantly.  

Why is that? 

"Because it's our offense," Foles answered. "This is the Eagles' offense. This is the one that is the DNA of this team. And we're going to do what we do. We have so many tremendous players on offense that can do a lot of different things. We just have to go out there and execute and have a great week of work and just keep moving." 

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich finally admitted that there will be "very minor tweaks" to the Eagles' weekly game plans with Foles in at quarterback. But he made the same point as Foles, that the system is built around the QB, but also around the other talent on offense. 

There is, however, one pretty significant difference between Wentz and Foles. 

"Now, Carson has some unique physical traits that he does exceptionally well, but it's nothing that Nick can't handle," Reich said. "We're full steam ahead."

The Eagles run plenty of run-pass option plays, but head coach Doug Pederson pointed out on Monday that the Eagles very rarely use their quarterback to run the ball in those situations. And as far as RPOs go, Foles has used them plenty before. 

Another part of the offense that has been tailored to Wentz is the autonomy the quarterback has at the line of scrimmage. Wentz has been able to make calls and checks pre-snap based on what the defense shows. It seems like Foles will have that same ability, which is something he's excited about. 

"Understand this, he's a veteran player who has played and won a lot of games, not only here, but other places that he's been," Pederson said. "Nick's a highly intelligent football player."

Pederson said he and Foles will talk weekly to make sure his quarterback is comfortable with the plays that go into the game plan. So, theoretically, things could be different. But based on what the offensive leaders of the team have said, don't expect wholesale changes. 

Now, what might change about the offense isn't necessarily by design. Because of Wentz's unique physical gifts and escapability, he's able to make incredible plays. The escape in Washington, the throw to Corey Clement in the end zone, the deep flick down the sideline in Seattle, those are plays only a handful of guys in the world can make. It would be unfair to expect Foles to make them. 

But as far as game-planning goes, the Eagles are going to do what they've done. 

"I feel comfortable in this offense," Foles said. "I love this offense. We're going to run this offense. Nothing's going to change."

Foles dealt with elbow soreness during the summer, but says his elbow now feels "amazing" and is not an issue. That's good news for the Eagles, because at least Foles has plenty of starting experience. His backup, Nate Sudfeld, has never even been active for an NFL game. 

The Eagles' hopes in 2017 rest on the shoulders of Foles. 

"I've always been a gunslinger, just let it rip," Foles said. "That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to play loose, count on the guys, lead this team. There's no other place I'd rather be. That's why I came back here. ... I'm ready to step up and help this team win."

Doug Pederson needs to give his new QB some help

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Doug Pederson needs to give his new QB some help

I know you're feeling conflicted right now. The Eagles are 11-2, tied for the best record in the NFL. They've already clinched the NFC East. Home-field advantage and a playoff bye are a very real possibility. But the Carson Wentz injury is an equalizer and then some.

On the bright side, the Flyers steadied their sinking ship in Western Canada by winning three straight. But the Sixers have dropped four in a row. Maybe the Phils will land Jake Arrieta or Manny Machado? Dare to dream. You're up, you're down. Welcome to Philadelphia sports. So what better time to provide some nice, healthy Rob's Rants? Letting things out can be therapeutic and after the Wentz news, I need to vent a little.    

Run-pass-option
It's hard to find fault with Doug Pederson this season. He's done an excellent job game planning and having his team prepared week in and week out, and his most impressive work has been his ability to overcome injuries. The Eagles have lost Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, Chris Maragos, just to name a few. All of the above represent major core pieces and Pederson's team is 11-2. Losing Wentz trumps them all and presents the head coach's biggest challenge. So look at this not so much as a rant but a plea to Doug P. moving forward.     

Nick Foles entered the Rams game late in the third quarter with the Eagles trailing 35-31. Certainly a difficult spot for any backup. He hadn't taken a meaningful snap all season. Logic would dictate emphasizing the run to let him get his feet wet. This was not the late fourth quarter, no timeouts, need to move down the field quickly type of circumstances. Further, the Eagles have three very capable running backs.

Pederson elected to throw the ball five straight times and called pass plays on eight of nine in the possession. The Birds did wind up getting a field goal on the drive and Foles completed three passes, but you wonder if it's the wisest move to drop Foles back that much, that quickly. I know Doug has been aggressive all season and that in part has helped the Eagles get where they are, and I'm also well aware of the heat he took by many (including me) for being too passive in the Seattle loss. But with Foles' lack of mobility in the pocket and the left side of the Eagles' offensive line struggling mightily against the pass rush, a bigger dose of the run could have made his transition back to starter a little smoother. But beyond the Rams game, balance and a commitment to the run will be Foles' best friend, along with a strong defense.    

Sixers struggles
It's one thing to lose in Cleveland and New Orleans, especially without Joel Embiid for both games and Robert Covington vs. the Pelicans. It's another to drop home games to the likes of the Suns and the Lakers prior to those defeats. For that, there is no excuse. The Sixers have lost four in a row and stand at 13-13. They continue to turn the ball over at an alarming rate and of late have not come to play to start games, particularly at home. Some of this can be chalked up to youth. Some not so much.

They are losing far too many 50-50 balls. Too many offensive rebounds and second chances allowed. That's just hustle and want. They also need veterans like Jerryd Bayless to be better, especially in the absence of T.J. McConnell. I've pointed this out before in this space but the Sixers are beyond losing to the NBA's dregs. It would also be nice to get the No. 1 overall pick from this past draft on the floor at some point.    

Army-Navy
Let's close out this Rob's Rants on two positives. First, the 118th edition of Army-Navy football was played Saturday right here in Philadelphia. It is everything that is right about sports and our country. The men doing battle on that field at the Linc put sports into the context it deserves. Battle hard on the field, win or lose, respect to your opponent, represent our service men and women and country. Then it's on to further protecting and serving. They are truly unique individuals. And to have it played in the snow in such a cool setting was awesome.

DJ and the Kernal
Lastly, Dick Jerardi and Mike Kern both recently announced their retirements from the Philadelphia Daily News. They were as good of writers as this city has ever seen. They were even better people. I grew up reading them and had the opportunity as an adult to work with them professionally as a producer, then as a host and the pleasure was all mine. They knew of what they wrote, you learned something every time you read them, and they provided a sense of humor while doing it. Nothing beat our yearly Daily News Live Christmas Eve shows with Hall of Famer John Chaney. Their bylines will be missed.