Wild-Card Weekend in the NFL will conclude when the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles take on the Chicago Bears. Kickoff is set for 4:40 EST on Sunday, January 6, at Soldier Field in Chicago. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBC.
The Bears are currently listed as 6-point favorites at home. That line has increased after Chicago opened as 4.5-point favorites. The over/under for the game is set at 41 points. Click here to check out NFL betting odds and game previews for all of this week’s Wild-Card games.
Before the season, many predicted the Bears to be a breakout team, and they have more than fulfilled those pre-season expectations. In his first season as a head coach, Matt Nagy took the Bears from worst to first in the NFC North, putting the Bears back in the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Even after clinching the NFC North title with two weeks left in the regular season, the Bears kept their foot on the gas to close out the season. Chicago finished the season on a four-game winning streak while also winning nine of their last 10 games overall to finish 12-4. That finish has given them plenty of momentum heading into the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the defending champion Eagles were the last team in the NFC to punch their ticket for the postseason. Not long ago, the Eagles were 4-6 and looked like long shots just to get into the postseason. However, they won five of their last six games heading down the stretch, including big wins over the Rams and Texans to finish 9-7 and earn the final wild-card spot in the NFC.
Much like last season, Nick Foles has replaced an injured Carson Wentz at quarterback in the weeks leading up to the playoffs. Foles has led the Eagles to three straight wins since taking over as the starter, creating some interesting symmetry with last year’s run to the Super Bowl. At the same time, the Eagles have developed a great deal of confidence late in the season, potentially making them a dangerous team heading into the playoffs.
This is a tricky game to call because I firmly believe the Bears are the better team. However, the Eagles have far more playoff experience than the upstart Bears. They also head into this game with a ton of momentum and confidence. With the spread growing in Chicago’s favor, I feel good about taking the Eagles and the points. Even if the Bears win, I think Philadelphia will keep the game close and beat the spread.
With all due respect to Wentz, the Eagles have been better with Foles at quarterback the last few weeks. Despite throwing three interceptions over the last three games, Foles has also thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and six touchdowns over that span. Just a couple of weeks ago, Foles threw for 471 yards and was only sacked once against a strong Houston defense. Such a performance bodes well for Foles and the Eagles as they take on one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Foles has done a great job of getting more of Philadelphia’s receivers involved. He has shown great chemistry with Alshon Jeffery while also making Nelson Agholar and Golden Tate bigger factors in the offense. Tight end Zach Ertz was Philadelphia’s only serious threat for large stretches of the season, but that has changed heading down the stretch. The Eagles will still need to get something from their lackluster rushing attack. But they finally have multiple offensive weapons that the Chicago defense will have to respect.
On the other side of the ball, I’m still a little wary of leaning toward the Bears to score enough points to cover a spread that’s nearly a touchdown. Mitchell Trubisky was much-improved this season, but he’s still new to playoff football. This will be his first time playing in a game with such high stakes. There has to be some level of uncertainty about how he’ll perform. He’s received a lot of help from the running game this season. However, Chicago’s rushing attack is steady but not necessarily explosive. The Bears may ask for a little more out of Trubisky than they got in most of their regular-season games.
To be fair, the Philadelphia defense is nothing special. It’s best not to overreact to their shutout against the Redskins last week. There are still plenty of holes and injury concerns on the Philadelphia defense. That being said, the Eagles have had the best red-zone defense in the NFL this season. The birds tend to bend but not break when it comes to allowing teams to score touchdowns in the red zone. That could put a little extra pressure on Trubisky to make high-level throws. If the Bears have to settle for field goals rather than touchdowns, it may be difficult to build a comfortable lead.
In the end, it’s hard to see the Eagles going down without a fight. I expect the Bears to win this game at home because they’re the better team. But there’s every chance that Foles will deliver another strong performance and keep the Eagles close. Ultimately, I like the Bears to win but the Eagles to beat the 6-point spread.