Behind Enemy Lines: Part III

John Crist of Bear Report gets together with Adam Caplan, an NFL reporter and insider for FOX Sports, to head Behind Enemy Lines for a look at Sunday's game between the Eagles and Bears in Chicago.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: BEARS ON OFFENSE
Bears' Offensive Line vs. Eagles' Blitz Scheme

This is probably the biggest matchup of the game. Philadelphia tends to use a variety of blitz schemes to confuse opposing offensive lines. If Chicago's starting five can't handle the blitz, look for a bunch of turnovers from QB Jay Cutler. If they can handle the blitz fairly well, the Chicago receivers could find some one-on-one matchups on the outside. Keep in mind Philadelphia could be without starting CB Asante Samuel (knee). If he can't play, that would force nickel back Joselio Hanson into the starting lineup, and they would have to use rookie CB Trevard Lindley, who was a healthy inactive last week, in the nickel role.

TE Greg Olsen vs. Ss Quintin Mikell and Nate Allen
With Michael Vick playing so well on the offensive side of the ball for the Eagles and scoring touchdowns on a regular basis, that means Chicago can't settle for field goals in this game and needs to cash in on its red-zone opportunities. Olsen isn't having a big year statistically, which should come as no surprise since offensive coordinator Mike Martz has never gone out of his way to feature the tight end position, but the former first-round pick does lead the team with four TD receptions. The Bears have a bunch of small and quick wideouts that are effective between the 20s but hard to find inside the opponent's 20-yard line, so Olsen's 6-5, 255-pound frame presents a better target for Cutler.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: BEARS ON DEFENSE
DE Julius Peppers vs. LT Jason Peters

There are actually a few that will be interesting to watch. Peppers vs. Peters is really a key for Philadelphia's passing game. If Peppers causes plays to bog down, Philadelphia's vertical passing attack could be in for a long day. And it's the deep passing game that is the foundation of Philadelphia's offense. Because Chicago does not blitz very much, the Eagles will have to handle its four-man pressure. If they can control it, they should be able to make plays in the passing game with solid frequency.

Bears' Safeties vs. WRs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin
Now that rookie Major Wright is healthy again, he's back to switching in and out of the lineup at free safety with Chris Harris, while Danieal Manning is on the field pretty much every play at strong safety. This group has exceeded expectations this season and done a terrific job keeping everything in front of them, as the Bears have only given up two pass plays all year long of 40-plus yards. However, that resolve will be put to the test more than ever Sunday, as both Jackson and Maclin have speed to burn, Vick extends plays like no other QB because of his scrambling ability and he has a strong enough arm to bomb the ball over two-deep coverage.


WR Jeremy Maclin
Drew Hallowell/Getty

THE EAGLES WIN IF...
... they can continue to make big plays in the passing game. If they can handle Peppers fairly well, plays should be there in the voids in Chicago's Cover-2 defensive scheme. Philadelphia's screen game could come into play in this game. Philadelphia historically has one of the better screen games. RB LeSean McCoy could get a lot of touches if Chicago takes away the deep passes. If Samuel winds up playing, Chicago might have a hard time making plays in the passing game. And if they handle Chicago's much-maligned offensive line, Cutler will be in for a long day under center.

THE BEARS WIN IF...
... their history of keeping Vick in check proves to be more than a three-game fluke and they can indeed contain the MVP candidate to the best of their ability. Chicago did very well against the former No. 1-overall pick earlier in his career when he was a Falcon, beating him three times in three chances and never allowing him to go into video-game mode either throwing or running, and he was especially ineffective in inclement weather at Soldier Field back in 2005. But post-prison Vick is a different player, and he can single-handedly beat the Bears if he continues his metamorphosis.

THE EAGLES LOSE IF...
... Peppers causes havoc against Philadelphia's offensive line. If Samuel can't play, Chicago will be able to take advantage of his absence because Hanson is much better playing inside as a slot cornerback. And let's not forget starting DE Juqua Parker (hip) is very iffy for the game with his lingering injury. It's almost certain that rookie DE Brandon Graham will start for him. Philadelphia's four-man rotation would be reduced significantly if Parker can't play.

THE BEARS LOSE IF...
... their offensive line looks anything like it did earlier in the season when facing the blitz. No question about it, the Eagles are going to bring pressure from every angle in this game and put Olin Kreutz and Co. to the test up front, and not only is it up to the big uglies to keep Cutler upright in the pocket, but his receivers need to master their hot reads and give their signal caller a quick target if protection starts to break down. Because Martz's offense doesn't allow his QB to audible and get out of a potentially bad play, Cutler has to be on the same page with his receiving corps and get rid of the football quickly, which can lead to big plays when Philadelphia sends five and six rush men at a time.

FINAL PREDICTIONS
Adam Caplan:
The Eagles, on paper, are the better team, and they have played quite well on the road so far. If Samuel winds up not playing, we could see a close game. If he plays, I just don't see how Chicago will find much luck against Philadelphia's improved secondary. The back end of the defense is really the reason why the Eagles have improved so much recently on the defensive side of the ball. I'll predict Philadelphia winning. ... EAGLES 24, BEARS 20.

John Crist: It seems to change from week to week in what has been a crazy NFL season to date, but the Eagles look to be the premier team in the NFC right now and the best bet to challenge the likes of the Jets, Patriots, Steelers or Ravens in Super Bowl XLV. The Bears, on the other hand, despite being on a three-game win streak and sporting a virtual lead in their division, still have their fair share of doubters out there because they haven't beaten a surefire playoff team in quite some time. In what feels like a statement game for Chicago at home, Philadelphia makes said statement instead. ... EAGLES 23, BEARS 17.

To go back and read Part I of this Behind Enemy Lines series, where Adam answered five questions from John, Click Here. To read Part II, where John answered five questions from Alain, Click Here.


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John Crist is the publisher of BearReport.com. Adam Caplan is an NFL reporter and insider for FOXSports.com.


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