All season long the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles have been battling to make the playoffs. With just two games left, both teams finally control their own destinies. Their paths will collide in Week 16 when they meet at Lincoln Financial Field.
A loss for the Detroit Lions on Monday night gave the Bears sole possession of first place for the first time since Week Three. Wins in their last two games would guarantee Chicago the NFC North crown. The Bears can clinch the division with a victory, coupled with losses from both the Lions and Green Bay Packers.
Philadelphia faces just one obstacle in winning the NFC East. At 8-6, they have a one-game lead on the Dallas Cowboys. A victory for Philadelphia, as well as a Dallas loss, would give them the division title. If the Cowboys win, it doesn’t much matter what the Eagles do on Sunday, since the two rivals will face off in the last game of the regular season.
Jay Cutler has battled injuries for much of the season, but he’ll be ready to go in Philadelphia. In Week 15, he played his first game in over a month and had one of his better performances of 2013, completing 71 percent of his passes for three touchdowns. Some had been calling for head coach Marc Trestman to start backup Josh McCown, but he gave Chicago’s starter of five years the nod
"The guys rallied around me," Cutler said. "I'd be lying if I didn't say there was (pressure) with everything on the outside and as well as Josh has played. But this was the plan all along and no one really flinched in our building."
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In his time under center, McCown’s passer rating was bested only by Peyton Manning and Nick Foles. Unlike McCown, Foles was able to keep the starting job when his team’s No.1 quarterback suffered an injury. He’s gone 6-2 as a starter, and leads the league with a 117.0 passer rating. In Philadelphia’s Week 15 loss, Foles threw just his second interception of the year, compared to 23 touchdown passes.
Despite Foles’s stellar play, he may not be the biggest threat to the Chicago defense. The Bears will have a very tough time stopping LeSean McCoy. He leads the NFL with 1,343 rushing yards and could have his best day of the season on Sunday. Chicago sports the worst rushing defense in football, 152.4 yards on the ground per game. Even when they’ve faced the Giants, Cowboys and Ravens, who are near the bottom of the league in rushing, they’ve given up an average of 165 yards on the ground.
There’s a chance will be getting back one of their best run stoppers. Linebacker Lance Briggs has been out for eight weeks with a fractured shoulder, but he might make his return on Sunday night. He’s been limited, but practicing with the first team.
At most Las Vegas casinos, the betting line has the Eagles favored by three points. Only two teams have a worse record against the point spread than the Bears. The Eagles are 7-7 against the spread. The over/under of 56 is the highest total for any contest in Week 16.
Prediction: Philadelphia 34, Chicago 27