Eagles-Bears player matchups to watch in Week 15


The Eagles (12-1) travel to Chicago to face the Bears (3-10) at Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon.

Here are some matchups to watch:

Justin Fields vs. Eagles rush discipline

The 23-year-old former first-round pick has been a lot of fun to watch this season and he’s been really special as a runner. Think about how good Jalen Hurts has been as runner this season. Pretty impressive, right? Fields has rushed for 219 more yards than Hurts this season. Fields has 908 yards and 8 touchdowns on the ground this season. The problem for the Bears is that his running has been the most dynamic part of their offense this season.

Sure, the Bears have a couple solid running backs in Davis Montgomery and Khalil Herbert, who might return from IR this week, but the star of the run game is Fields.

The Eagles kept Daniel Jones in check on the ground in Week 14 and a big reason was because of their disciplined pass rush. They’ll need to do that again this week against an even bigger QB running threat.

What’s the key?

‘Players executing the plan, because you can't be selfish when you play quarterbacks with that type of skill set,” Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon said. “It's really everyone has to rush together, whether you're rushing four, five or six. You have to stay disciplined, and you have to be where you're supposed to be, and I thought they did a good job of that.

“They know the value of that, of the rush plan I'm talking, and executed at a high level. Then going to this next upcoming game, this guy is electric, so we're going to have to have some tools that we use and we're going to have to do basically the same thing because the way that they move the ball down the field is all through the quarterback. Got a big-time challenge with that.”

The good news is that if the Eagles stop the run against the Bears, especially if Hurts and Co. put up points early, then the Eagles’ defense should be able to suffocate the Bears.

Cole Kmet vs. Eagles safeties

The Bears don’t have much on offense aside from Fields’ ability as a runner. Their top receiver Darnell Mooney is out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury, which means their top receivers are Equanimeous St. Brown, Dante Pettis and relative newcomer Chase Claypool. The Eagles’ cornerbacks should be able to wipe those guys off the face of the Earth Sunday.

But if the Bears are looking for a place where they might be able to find a little edge, it could be at tight end. Cole Kmet is a solid player who has 35 catches for 408 yards and 5 touchdowns. No, not surer impressive numbers but if the Bears are forced to throw, they gotta throw to someone.

And the Eagles are coming into this game pretty banged up at the safety position. They were already without C.J. Gardner-Johnson (on IR with a lacerated kidney) and now Reed Blankenship suffered a knee injury against the Giants. This week, the Eagles brought back veteran Anthony Harris to the practice squad and there’s a good chance he’ll be starting in this game. Harris isn’t awful but he’s past his prime and has just a few days to reintegrate himself in this defense. If I’m the Bears, that’s where I’d try to attack.

Bears OL vs. Eagles’ great pass rush

The Eagles’ pass rush has dominated the last couple of weeks and it’s not hard to see why. They’re getting leads and letting those guys hunt. It’s working. They have back-to-back games with 6+ sacks for the first time since 1998. And there’s a reason to think they can keep it going in this one.

Bears quarterbacks have been sacked 42 times this season, the fifth-most in the NFL. Sure, Fields has run into some of them but it’s not like this offensive line is very good. It might be a little better than expected but there’s no reason to think the Eagles deep rotation of pass rushers shouldn’t be able to get after Fields on Sunday. The Bears’ bigger problem on offense is their lack of skill players but the line isn’t very good and the Eagles should be able to attack that.

Left tackle Braxton Jones hasn’t been awful but he has given up a team-high 6 sacks, 24 hurries and 33 pressures. It could be another big game for Josh Sweat, who has five sacks in five games.

Eagles OL vs. Bears’ non-existent pass rush

The Eagles’ defense is first in the NFL this season with 49 sacks. Where are the Bears? Keep scrolling, keep scrolling, keep scrolling … dead last with just 16. Their pass rush has been almost non-existent this season. While the Eagles already have five players with 6+ sacks this season, the Bears have just one player with 3 and that’s rookie safety Jaquan Brisker. This is the worst pass-rushing team in the NFL and the Eagles have the best offensive line in the NFL.

That means Hurts should have plenty of time to sit back in the pocket and pick apart this secondary. We saw a couple weeks ago when the Titans basically decided to stop rushing Hurts because they were worried about his legs and Hurts had one of the best passing games of his career. If the Bears can’t get pressure on Hurts — and the evidence says that’s the case — he should have a nice day throwing the football.

Not only that, but the Bears best player in the secondary is free safety Eddie Jackson, who is on IR.

Miles Sanders vs. weak run defense

The Eagles should be able to pass the football to build a lead and then run to protect it. That’s been the plan a bunch for them this season and they’re entering a game where they should pretty much be able to dictate how they run their offense.

The Bears rank as the No. 27 run defense in the NFL and have given up 21 touchdowns on the ground, more than any other team in the league. The Eagles’ offense, by the way, leads the league with 27 rushing touchdowns (6 more than the next closest team). And before you think the Bears are falling behind and that’s when teams are piling up running yards, know that they have been gashed to the tune of 4.7 yards per attempt against them. That ranks 21st in the NFL. And they've really missed Roquan Smith since trading him to the Ravens.

Before their bye week, the Bears gave up 175 yard and 2 touchdowns on 32 carries to the Packers. That’s an average of 5.5 yards per attempt.

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