Whoever loses on Monday Night Football tonight will have big trouble getting to the playoffs. Frank Doyle reports.
The Bears and the Eagles are two of the better teams in the League but they’re both fighting to keep in touch in their divisions. People laughed at Eli Manning when he suggested the Giants would be the team to beat in the NFC East but he’s walking the walk this year as the Giants are two games clear of the Cowboys and 2.5 clear of the Eagles.
As for the Bears, the only question about the NFC North leading Packers is whether or not they’ll run the table. The Bears are chasing for the Wild Card, and that’s a pretty crowded field right now.
The NFL betting suggests that race is going to get harder for the Bears. Chicago is a +8.5 underdog tonight at Philadelphia, which is a pretty big start for a team of Chicago’s calibre.
The public has rowed in behind the Eagles on this game. Philly was one of the most talked about teams at the start of the league but got off to an awful 1-4 start in which the Eagles were not only beaten but humiliated.
Then Philly started using LeSean McCoy and the ground game more to take the pressure off Mike Vick, stepped it up on defense and good things started to happen. Now the Eagles are 3-4 and looking to the horizon again.
But here’s the thing. The Eagles’ three wins for the season are over the Rams, Redskins and Cowboys. How many of those are going to the playoffs? The Eagles might still make the show, but right now eight and a half is a big number to ask them to cover.
In the Eagles’ favor is that they match up well against the Bears. Chicago has done well against Vick both as an Eagle and previously as a Falcon but the NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately League and right now the Bears don’t match up well.
The Bears are giving up 5.2 yards a carry against the rush, which is tied for the second-highest average in the League. LeSean McCoy is averaging 5.6 yards per carry. That doesn’t add up well for the Bears. That doesn’t add up well at all.
If the Bears can’t stop the run they’re cooked. If they can, they still need to contain Vick behind the line and shut down the Eagles’ fast-break offense. And then they need to get on the board themselves when they have the ball. They might do one or two or three, but all four is a big ask for Chicago right now. Not least in Philly, where the dream has come alive again.