Eagles (1-0) at Bears (0-1)
8:30 p.m. on ESPN
Carson Wentz looks to replicate the magnificent performance he turned in for his NFL debut, but the difficulty turns up in a notch in Week 2, as the Eagles head to Chicago to take on the Bears on Monday Night Football.
While the Eagles were impressive in their opener, the Bears began the 2016 season 0-1 with a 23-14 loss to the Houston Texans. Regardless, this opponent is a clear step up from the inferior Browns squad Wentz downed in front of a friendly home crowd eight days ago.
Carson Wentz on the road
No, Wentz has never played a prime time game at Soldier Field, much less a road game of any kind in the NFL. But it's not as if the 23-year-old has never been in a hostile environment before though.
Wentz made eight of his 21 starts at North Dakota State as a member of the visiting team, posting a 6-2 record in away games. Of course, it's a bit of a different animal in college — only one of the opponents was even ranked at the time — particularly at the FCS level, where the attendance in most buildings topped out under 20,000.
If any game could be considered comparable, it might be Wentz's first start, which just happened to come against FBS Iowa State in front of an announced attendance of 54,800. North Dakota State won comfortably by a final of 34-14, as Wentz completed 18 of 28 passes for 204 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
Of course, Wentz has played in some pretty big games at neutral sites as well, going 2-0 in FCS National Championship games. It still isn't Soldier Field on a Monday night, but he does have some experience on the road nonetheless.
Jim Schwartz vs. Jay Cutler
After 11 seasons in the NFL, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has gained a reputation for a lot of things. For a long time, being a thorn in Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's side was one of them.
Cutler and Schwartz have seen plenty of one another through the years, particularly when the latter spent five seasons as head coach of the NFC North rival Detroit Lions. And for much of that time, Cutler owned Schwartz, amassing an impressive 8-4 record against Schwartz-led defenses
Only here's the kicker. While it certainly looks like Cutler has his number, Schwartz appears to have turned a corner in recent years. In their last three meetings — two as coach of the Lions and one as defensive coordinator for the Bills — Schwartz's side has come away victorious.
It just goes to show that while there is history here, some trends have a way of reversing course. Lately, Schwartz has been getting the better of Cutler, although there's no telling what will happen when the two match wits again on Monday.
Lane Johnson watch
It's Week 2 of the NFL season, but we're approaching week six of the Lane Johnson suspension watch, with absolutely no news to report.
Of course, while we've learned almost nothing new since reports first emerged of a looming 10-game ban on Johnson for a violation of the NFL's performance enhancing drug policy, that means one thing to the casual fan: the Eagles right tackle will continue to play.
At this point, there's no telling how this will eventually work out, but the expectation is a suspension is still on the way. Until then, Johnson's status is worth monitoring. As long as he's allowed to play though, he'll be in the lineup, as the Eagles are obviously better off with the fourth-year starter than without.
The Eagles may have Lane Johnson in the lineup, but they will be without at least one key player on both sides of football. Tight end Zach Ertz (rib) and cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hamstring) were both ruled out for the contest, and both positions are areas where the depth chart is looking a little sparse for the contest against the Bears.
At tight end, at least the Eagles have veteran Brent Celek and secret weapon Trey Burton to help fill the void left by Ertz. That being said, there goes one of Wentz's top security blankets, as Ertz was targeted 7 times last week for six catches and 58 yards. It likely also means offensive lineman Matt Tobin will serve as a third tight end of sorts as well.
Meanwhile, the loss of McKelvin in the secondary will result in an extended look for rookie cornerback Jalen Mills. The seventh-round draft pick impressed during training camp and held his own in relief of McKelvin against the Browns, but it remains to be seen how he fares when Pro Bowl Bears wideout Alshon Jeffery is staring him down. With McKelvin out, it appears the Eagles will only carry three corners into the game as well.
Every team has to deal with injuries, but with a rookie quarterback under center, the margin for error will be paper thin for the Eagles most weeks. Monday night against the Bears appears to be no exception.
Bulletin board material?
Among the other things Cutler is known for is crumbling under pressure. This doesn't make him unlike most quarterbacks, but fair or not, there is a perception around the league that the Bears' signal-caller is "soft."
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins seemed to be echoing those sentiments earlier in the week, telling CSN's John Clark that Cutler becomes an "entirely different" player once he gets hit a few times. In other words, if the front four knocks him around early and consistently, Cutler will eventually fold.
That is certainly the book on Cutler, but if you put any stock in the notion of bulletin board material at all, you have to wonder whether Jenkins should've said anything at all. If winning wasn't enough, the Bears should be out to prove that kind of talk is wrong.
Of course, there's a reason that conversation about Cutler exists, and the fact of the matter is when the defense can get to any quarterback, it greatly enhances their odds of winning. So either Cutler is going to be the player he's known for being, or he's going to have to quiet Jenkins and like-minded opponents with his performance on Monday.