January 04, 2019
Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles, led by backup quarterback Nick Foles, entered the postseason as the top seed in the NFC and were still underdogs throughout their entire run to the Super Bowl. Despite the fact that they proved quite a few people wrong along the way — and have the Super Bowl LIII MVP back under center — the Eagles, now the sixth seed, once again enter the postseason as big underdogs.
Picked to lose Sunday by nearly a touchdown by many sports books, the Eagles don't seem to mind playing the familiar role.
But will the outcome be the same? Can Nick Foles and the Eagles pick up where they left off last postseason by pulling off another upset? Here's how our staff sees Sunday's NFC Wild Card game unfolding...
TV: NBC | RADIO: 94.1 WIP
SPREAD: Bears (-6.5) | TOTAL: 41.0 (via Bovada)
This is the third time I've used this in an article this week, but 31 active NFL quarterbacks have started at least one playoff game. Only 10 won their first playoff start. That would be an overall record of 10-21, or a winning percentage of 0.323. They were 6-12 in home games, 4-9 on the road.
• Guys who won their first playoff start: Blake Bortles, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Case Keenum, Marcus Mariota, Brock Osweiler, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub, Alex Smith, and Russell Wilson.
To note, Bortles, Osweiler, and Wilson were all playing against quarterbacks who were also making their first ever start in the playoffs.
• Guys who lost their first playoff start: Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Cassel, Connor Cook, Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton, Nick Foles, Jared Goff, Robert Griffin III, Brian Hoyer, Andrew Luck, Eli Manning, A.J. McCarron, Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Tyrod Taylor, and Joe Webb.
The lone quarterback in the NFC making his first playoff start this postseason is Mitchell Trubisky.
I believe the affect of added pressure for a first-time playoff quarterback is real. The Eagles head into this matchup in an interesting position. They're coming off a Super Bowl win, so they know what the playoffs are all about, and yet at the same time, they barely squeaked into the playoffs, and are almost kind of playing with house money. The combination of those two things makes them dangerous.
When the Eagles have the ball, they'll have to figure out a way to block the Bears' impressive front seven. With their excellent offensive line playing its best football of the season, the Eagles are perhaps better positioned to mitigate the pressure the Bears' front can apply, more so than any opponent Chicago has faced this season.
When the Bears have the ball, the Eagles could be in a good position to take advantage of several matchup advantages along the line, particularly with Brandon Graham, Michael Bennett, and Chris Long against the Bears' offensive tackles.
The Eagles can win this game, and I think that they will.
This one is seriously, really tough. On paper the Bears are the better team. They have an imposing defense with few weaknesses and they have just enough offense — led by two dynamic running backs — to put up points on the Eagles' still bruised and battered defense.
However, as Eagles fans well know, these games are not decided on paper. Nick Foles is a living legend, Fletcher Cox is playing like a beast and the Birds have the fullest complement of offensive weapons they've had all season long. I make this prediction with a pretty low level of confidence, but I make it nonetheless — Eagles win, 24-20
As you can see, I haven't been great picking Eagles games this season. But I'm going to blame that on them for being so damn unpredictable this year. But, 2018 is over. And so is the regular season. It's time for me to turn over a new leaf.
It appears the Eagles have already done that, as they finished the year looking like am much more consistent team, on both sides of the ball, something that was certainly not the case early on. On offense, Nick Foles has seemed to get the offense in rhythm, and the return of Darren Sproles certainly didn't hurt. On defense, they've really taken that #SkiMaskSZN thing to heart, as they've suddenly transformed into a turnover factory after recording just seven over their first nine games. (Compare that to eight takeaways in their last four games.)
Beyond that, they're far more experienced than the Bears, and as Jimmy pointed out above, that could be a huge difference at the quarterback position. I might have struggled with my Eagles predictions this regular season, but I was 3-0 last postseason picking the Birds, so why stop now?
I mean, would you bet against Nick Foles at this point? Somebody grab me a ski mask.
I think it ends here. This Chicago defense is too much. I can see the Eagles with a last-possession drive, and coming up short. The Eagles have played well the last month, the Bears have played well all season.
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