Few teams entered the 2016 NFL season with lower expectations than the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears. Most experts picked them to finish either third or fourth in their respective divisions, and oddsmakers give them virtually no chance to compete for a Super Bowl.
But the season is still young, and both teams can change the national perception by getting off to a fast start. Only one, however, can get a win in Week 2 when they meet on “Monday Night Football” in Chicago.
The Bears are already behind the eight ball, having suffered a season-opening loss to the Houston Texans. Chicago put themselves in position to pull off the upset by taking a lead into the fourth quarter, but they crumbled down the stretch and were defeated by nine points.
Philadelphia was actually one of the biggest winners in Week 1. They defeated the Cleveland Browns 29-10, coming away with the largest margin of victory of any team that played on the first Sunday of the season. More importantly, the Eagles’ first-round draft pick played as well as the team could’ve hoped.
Carson Wentz showed why Philadelphia chose him with the No.2 overall selection, at least for one game, throwing for 278 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He was one of 12 quarterbacks to post a passer rating of 100.0 or better in the opening week, looking nothing like a player making his NFL debut. Wentz barely even saw any action in the preseason, playing in just one exhibition game.
“It's not surprising,” first-year Eagles head coach Doug Pederson told the media after the Week 1 victory. “I've been around him for so long now. This is who he is. This is his DNA. He's mature like a five, or six-year veteran. The way he handles himself, his maturity level, it's off the charts.”
The question remains whether or not Wentz can duplicate his performance for a second week in a row. Wentz could not have made his debut in a more ideal situation, playing at home against maybe the worst team in the league. Monday marks his first time heading on the road, and he’ll be doing so in front of a national audience.
Chicago might not present Wentz with one of his biggest challenges this season. The Bears allowed Brock Osweiler to have his moments in Week 1, though they did finish 2015 ranked fourth against the pass.
The Bears’ biggest struggles come on the offensive end. They’ve had trouble getting into the end zone since the first preseason game when they were shut out and totaled just 130 yards of offense. Chicago took a 14-10 lead into halftime in Week 1, but they failed to put up any points in the second half. Jay Cutler completed just 16 of 29 passes while throwing a crucial interception.
The Eagles’ defense allowed just 10 points in Week 1, but not much can be read into their performance against Robert Griffin III and an offense that’s lacking in playmakers. Cutler should be able to connect with Alshon Jeffery for a few big plays against a unit that ranked 28th against the pass last year. Running back Jeremy Langford should be in for a bounce-back performance, considering the Eagles allowed more rushing yards than any team in 2015.
Chicago was awful at home a year ago, going 1-7, but they are three-point favorites because the game is at Soldier Field, via OddsShark. Expected to be one of the lowest-scoring games on the schedule with an over/under of 42.5, Monday night's contest could prove to be a reminder that Wentz is still a rookie starting for a team that needs a lot of improvement.
Prediction: Chicago over Philadelphia, 23-17