Eagles

Eagles-Bears NFL playoffs wild-card round predictions

Eagles-Bears NFL playoffs wild-card round predictions

The Eagles needed the Bears’ help just to get into the playoffs and now, the two teams will square up in Soldier Field. 

The Bears are the three-seed, while the Eagles come in as the underdogs as the sixth-seed. 

To the predictions: 

Reuben Frank (9-7) 
This is going to be one of those low-scoring, close-to-the-vest defensive battles where possessions are at a premium and turnovers will be fatal. The matchup I keep coming back to is the Eagles’ defensive line, which played its best football of the year down the stretch, vs. a 24-year-old quarterback making his first career playoff start. The Bears’ offensive line is very good and generally keeps Mitch Tribusky clean, and that’s enabled him to be efficient enough to win games with an exceptional defense.

But I like the way the Eagles’ front is playing. Fletcher Cox has been an absolute beast. Michael Bennett looks 10 years younger. Brandon Graham is finally healthy. Chris Long knows when to turn it on. Even Haloti Ngata has been very good lately. And now, Tim Jernigan is back doing his thing. I just don’t see the Bears scoring a ton of points Sunday and I think the Eagles will score just enough to get out of Soldier Field with a win. See everybody back in New Orleans!

Eagles 17, Bears 13 

Dave Zangaro (7-9)
This is one of those rare games where it seems like both fan bases have confidence. And they both should. The Bears are a 12-4 team with a killer defense. The Eagles are just 9-7 but have been hot, playing their best football and the Super Bowl MVP seems to have the magic back. The six-point line tells me Vegas thinks the Bears are going to win by double-digits, but I don’t see it. I expect a really close game. 

To me, it all comes down to the Eagles’ offensive live vs. the very talented Bears’ defensive line. The two strengths of these respective teams battling it out in the trenches. Nick Foles has his magic back, but it’ll disappear really quickly if he spends Sunday afternoon on the seat of his pants. If he stays upright, I think the Eagles have a chance to sneak out of Chicago with a win. 

Eagles 24, Bears 21 

Derrick Gunn (9-7)
Just when we thought the defending Super Bowl champs were down and out, they get off the ropes and are still swinging. The Eagles feel all the pressure is on the Bears. They know what it takes to survive in the second season, while the Bears have to figure it out. The head coaches, Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy, are from the Andy Reid coaching tree. They are both risk-takers and creative play callers. 

The Bears’ defense is a monster and Khalil Mack is a nightmare. Lane Johnson did an outstanding job against J.J. Watt, and Ryan Kerrigan, but he will have to elevate his game against the Mack attack. The Eagles will try to establish their run game, but it won't be easy against a unit giving up just 80 yards per game on the ground. Foles will have to take care of the ball against these guys, who led the league in both takeaways (36) and interceptions (27). 

Considering the high volume of injuries, these Eagles are still a dangerous bunch. I don’t expect it to be a high-scoring affair. It could come down to the last play of the game, with Jake Elliott putting the winner through the uprights. 

Eagles 21, Bears 20

Ray Didinger (9-7)
The Eagles seem to thrive in the role of underdogs and, good news, they are the biggest underdog of wild-card weekend. The Bears are favored by a touchdown over the defending Super Bowl champs and it is easy to see why. They are hot, they are healthy and they are playing at home, where they have been very good this season.

The Bears’ defense is legit. It has allowed the fewest points (17.7 per game) and it also has produced a slew of points. That's because the Bears lead the league with 36 takeaways, so the defense is setting the offense up with great field position and easy scores. The Bears' offense ranks 21st in yards gained but it is ninth in points scored. That tells you the Bears aren't producing long drives but they are still putting points on the board, thanks to the defense.

That's the key for the Eagles. If they can avoid turnovers and make the Bears' offense work for its points, they can win the game. The Bears are a young team with a quarterback, Trubisky, making his first playoff start. The Eagles have the Super Bowl MVP and a big edge in experience, which could be the difference in what figures to be a tight, low-scoring game.

Eagles 20, Bears 17

Andrew Kulp (8-8) 
Here are some numbers that would seem to matter: the Bears’ defense hasn't surrendered more than 17 points in its last four games; has held seven of its last 10 opponents to 17 or fewer; surrendered 24 or more points in just four games all season; and allowed only one team, the Patriots, to score more than 22 at Soldier Field. Meanwhile, the Bears averaged 26.3 points per game themselves.

The moral of the story? The Eagles will need to score points to win, and it will not be easy to do. Now, they are averaging 27.0 over their last six contests, but the only good, healthy defense they faced was the Cowboys', which held the Eagles to 256 total yards of offense.

It's also true the Eagles are playing better in the three games since Dallas, but if you think Foles is going to hang franchise-record yardage on the Bears or complete 25 straight passes against this defense, you've got another thing coming. He won't get much help on the ground against the No. 1 unit against the run, either, which means Foles has to win this through the air against the most opportunistic D in the NFL.

The odds are not in the Eagles' favor here.

Bears 27, Eagles 17 

Corey Seidman (9-7)
I think the Eagles have this. The Bears’ offense waned in the regular season’s final weeks, and while any wide receiver corps is capable of beating the Eagles’ secondary in a given week, I don’t think Chicago’s offense will be able to keep up with the Eagles. That is, unless Nick Foles is sacked a bunch or commits a couple turnovers in Eagles territory.

Quite frankly, I’m surprised this line opened with the Bears favored by six points. The teams are closer than that, talent-wise.

Eagles 24, Bears 13

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Eagles release veterans Orlando Scandrick and Akeem Spence

Eagles release veterans Orlando Scandrick and Akeem Spence

The Eagles on Monday released two more veteran defensive players who had been playing major roles. 

Last week, they cut linebacker Zach Brown the day after the loss to the Vikings. 

This week, the Eagles cut veteran CB Orlando Scandrick and veteran DT Akeem Spence the day after their 37-10 loss to the Cowboys. Both were added to the roster during September following injuries and both played a lot on Sunday night. 

The Eagles on Monday also brought back DT Anthony Rush from the Raiders’ practice squad. Rush was with the Eagles during training camp. They are also signing DT Albert Huggins from Houston's practice squad. 

While Scandrick, 32, certainly didn’t play well against the Cowboys, he did start and played 51 percent (36 snaps) of their defensive snaps. 

Spence, 27, played 47 snaps against the Cowboys on Sunday. 

And this comes a week after Brown was cut the day after he played 58 snaps against the Vikings. 

After two back-to-back blowout losses, the Eagles are not hesitating to send messages and get rid of dead weight. 

Still, it’s not a great sign that the Eagles have cut three veteran defensive players the day after blowout losses in consecutive weeks. It’s an even worse sign that they were all playing a significant roles. 

The Scandrick move is curious because it’s not like the Eagles are flush with cornerback talent. Now, their two corners with the most experience at the nickel corner spot are Avonte Maddox and Sidney Jones. 

Jones on Sunday was healthy but the Eagles played Craig James ahead of him, which was the plan, according to Doug Pederson. Jones, the former second-round pick, has struggled mightily this season. And Maddox is still in the concussion protocol from a friendly fire hit from Andrew Sendejo in the Green Bay game on Sept. 26. That injury is what led to the Eagles’ signing Scandrick in the first place. So the fact that they were willing to release Scandrick before Maddox is back is strange. 

Last year’s nickel cornerback, Cre’Von LeBlanc (foot), could be nearing a return from IR, but he still won’t be eligible to return until Week 9 against Chicago. That doesn’t help this week against Buffalo. 

The highlight of Scandrick’s short stint in Philadelphia was his performance against the Jets and Luke Falk back on Oct. 6. In his first game off his couch, Scandrick had two sacks, two forced fumbles and returned one of them 44 yards for a touchdown. Now, it seems like he’ll be a mere footnote from this season. 

The timing of the Spence move is interesting too. Hassan Ridgeway suffered what sounds like a serious ankle injury against the Cowboys and the Eagles are really light at defensive tackle, especially because Tim Jernigan (foot) is still out. Without Spence, they’re down to Fletcher Cox and Rush, whom the Eagles just signed on Monday.  

You can add Scandrick and Spence to the long list of veteran acquisitions who didn’t work out for Howie Roseman in the last couple of years. The Band-Aids aren’t working. 

 

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Howard Eskin outing Alshon Jeffery led to bizarre press conference moment with Doug Pederson

Howard Eskin outing Alshon Jeffery led to bizarre press conference moment with Doug Pederson

Signs of dysfunction in the Philadelphia Eagles locker room began to show late last week when ESPN’s Josina Anderson quoted an anonymous Eagles player criticizing Carson Wentz and the Birds' offense.

Head coach Doug Pederson wasn’t thrilled about it when asked prior to the Dallas Cowboys game, then the team went out and played a total dud. 

A new page in the drama was written this morning when WIP’s Howard Eskin reported on the air that he knew the identity of the anonymous player — Alshon Jeffrey.

Not only did Eskin name Alshon, he also called him “foolish and stupid.” Eskin also criticized Anderson, “She’ll bait a guy and then the guy gets trapped into saying things and he says them.”

Here’s the full quote as transcribed by Crossing Broad:

Eskin: Yeah why not. Alshon Jeffery.

Cataldi: It is?

Eskin: Yes. The thing is, here’s why he’s foolish and stupid – He knows that she’s not out to have his back. The problem is, as a reporter, I’ve seen her do this. She’ll bait a guy and then the guy gets trapped into saying things and he says them. It’s just foolish and stupid. We all understand it’s not productive. But what benefit was there to say that? And the reality is, why would he worry about a defensive player (Jalen Ramsey) not being traded for? And when he talks about checking down, sometimes the back you check down to is blocked. Or he’s blocking and then can’t get off the block. That’s one of your checkdowns. So the whole thing was just stupid. But it’s not being productive for somebody like that.

This is interesting in part because Alshon denied being the source last week, Josina defended her source from Eskin — “He has zero knowledge of who I spoke to. #Zero” —  and also because Eskin appears on the Eagles radio broadcasts on game days, travels on the team plane, and even received his own Super Bowl ring. So the Inquirer’s Eagles beat writer Jeff McLane took all of that info to Pederson’s press conference on Monday, which led to a fascinating exchange.

“There was a report that Alshon Jeffrey was the anonymous player who was giving quotes to ESPN," McLane began. "Is that true? And also, the person who reported it doesn’t technically work for the Eagles but he’s on the sideline with the Eagles, he flies [on the Eagles plane], he wears a Super Bowl ring given to him by the Eagles. Are we to assume just because he reported it, that the Eagles want it out there?”

Pederson appeared somewhat dumbfounded but didn’t “want to go there.”

“That has nothing to do with the Buffalo Bills or the Dallas Cowboys," Pederson said.

So pretty much a non-answer. But the interesting exchanges didn’t stop there.

Once the press conference ended, Eskin had some choice words for McLane who reportedly took the high road and avoided a confrontation, according to people in the room.

So maybe Alshon was the anonymous player, maybe not. It'll be curious to see how Alshon responds to the latest reports here. He had some unusually high praise for Carson Wentz in the locker room following the game last night.

"I still believe in each and every one of the guys in here," Jeffery said. "Carson is our guy. Everybody on our team, we’re together. On offense, Carson, O-line, me, Nelson, receivers, the skill group, we all have to be held accountable. I mean, that was unacceptable. That was embarrassing today.”

All we know for sure is there is plenty of drama surrounding the Eagles these days. That never bodes well.

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