Eagles at Bears wild-card preview: Another magical run in order for Nick Foles?
A preview of the NFC wild-card matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears
When: Sunday, Jan. 6, 4:40 p.m. ET
Where: Soldier Field in Chicago
Injuries: Philly has a suspect secondary, but Chicago may not be able to take advantage. Rookie WR Anthony Miller left Sunday's game with a shoulder injury that looked problematic. Chicago's top receiver, Allen Robinson (ribs), missed the game entirely. But the Bears' primary concern could be Eddie Jackson, the ball-hawking safety who's been inactive the past two weeks with an ankle injury. But the injury story to monitor for this game will be the status of Eagles QB Nick Foles, who couldn't finish Sunday's win at Washington as he continues to battle tender ribs after absorbing a brutal blow from Houston's Jadeveon Clowney in Week 16.
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
1. Defense wins championships: Philadelphia gave the cliché merit in 2017, playing suffocating D in its first two playoff wins and getting the key stop it needed to beat New England in the Super Bowl. But the Eagles are suspect this year, ranking last against the pass before holding Redskins third string quarterback Josh Johnson to 91 yards in the finale. Fortunately for them, they stop the run effectively with their talented front and could face a depleted Chicago passing attack that rarely strikes much fear into opponents under the best circumstances. But will that be enough to pull the upset at Soldier Field? The Bears defense is one of the best in recent memory, the first since 2006 to record both 50 sacks and 25 interceptions. OLB Khalil Mack is the star, but Jackson and Akiem Hicks are also all-pro caliber. And Chicago knows how to capitalize on mistakes, scoring six defensive TDs this season.
2. Platoon: Neither team features a high-profile ball carrier, but either could get explosive plays from its backfield. Chicago's Tarik Cohen is a big-play threat who's dangerous in space and more effectively deployed as a receiver while Jordan Howard does the dirty work inside. Philadelphia seems to have finally found the right combination with bruising rookie Josh Adams, reliable Wendell Smallwood and veteran Darren Sproles, who can go the distance any time and will be looking to reprise some of his old postseason heroics in what could be his final game.
3. Experience and innocence: The name of the recently completed (and brilliant) U2 tour applies nicely to these adversaries. The Eagles obviously know what it takes to win a championship, and veterans like Foles, Sproles, C Jason Kelce, DEs Michael Bennett and Chris Long and S Malcolm Jenkins are all reliable anchors who won't fold in the face of adversity. On the other side, the Bears are probably the more talented club. But QB Mitchell Trubisky, Cohen, Howard, Jackson, rookie LB Roquan Smith and many others will be making their playoff debuts. Even Mack has never tasted a postseason victory. But maybe Chicago can get some pixie dust from TE Trey Burton, the former Eagle who threw the "Philly Special" TD pass to Foles in the Super Bowl — just the kind of daring play rookie coach Matt Nagy will be more than willing to try knowing counterpart Doug Pederson won't pull any punches, either.
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
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