LT J'Marcus Webb vs. DE Trent Cole & RT Lance Louis vs. Jason Babin
Louis starts for the third straight week on the right edge tonight and will face another tough test in Babin, whose 9.0 sacks are third best in the league. He's a speed rusher with quick, powerful hands. Cole is a two-time Pro Bowler who has 4.0 sacks of his own this year. In passing situations, both ends will line up a few yards outside of the tackle and then barrel into the backfield with a running head start. Webb and Louis must be fundamentally sound against such a pass rush. Webb especially needs to consistently shadow the defender and let Cole come to him. When Webb starts reaching and lunging is when Jay Cutler starts getting knocked around. If the Bears' tackles can contain these two edge rushers, Chicago's offense has a much better shot of completing downfield passes.
RB Matt Forte
RB Matt Forte vs. Eagles linebackers
The Eagles have a strong secondary, which is going to limit the effectiveness of Chicago's wide receivers. The offense may have to again rely heavily on Matt Forte in the passing game. Forte will get his 20-plus carries on the ground, and should do well with those against Philly's 19th rated run defense, but he might be even more valuable as a receiver. By exploiting the Eagles' young linebacker corps, Forte can get the ball in space, where he's been deadly this year. Expect Cutler to look for his outlet receiver early and often. If Forte can be effective out of the backfield, it should collapse Philly's defense and open things up outside.
WR Earl Bennett vs. CB Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie
Bennett returns to his slot role after missing the past five games with a bruised chest. He'll matchup against Rodgers-Cromartie, a tough cover corner. On the outside, it's doubtful Johnny Knox or Devin Hester will be able to do much against Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel, which makes Bennett's role a crucial one. When matched up one-on-one in the slot, Bennett has to be able to take advantage of Rodgers-Cromartie's aggressiveness. Crisp route running with plenty of double moves will give the defender trouble. This will be especially so on third down, an area the Bears' offense has struggled. Bennett needs to create separation and give Cutler a target to throw to when the drive is on the line.
QB Michael Vick vs. LB Brian Urlacher
No matter how well the Bears' defensive line plays, Vick is going to get loose on a number of plays. The onus then falls on the linebackers to corral the shifty quarterback. This is especially so for Urlacher, who is the only Chicago linebacker with enough speed to chase down Vick. Chicago's coaches may have Urlacher in a spy role, shadowing the Eagles' signal caller. In that role, Urlacher must take good angles and wrap up. A missed tackle or two is all it takes for Vick to turn a five-yard gain into a 50-yard game-breaker.
RB LeSean McCoy
RB LeSean McCoy vs. Bears' defensive line
With as shifty as McCoy is, stopping him must be a group effort. Like the great Barry Sanders, McCoy is liable to run through any hole on any given rush. The play call is just a suggestion. If that gap is plugged, he has no problems quickly changing directions, either by cutting back or bouncing the play outside. As such, Chicago's front four defenders have to maintain position and say in their gaps. McCoy is as dangerous as they come in the open field and is the type of player that, when given big holes to run through, makes defenses pay. Nose tackles Matt Toeaina and Anthony Adams must be rock solid inside. Also, look for Stephen Paea to use his strength to overpower Philly's smaller offensive linemen.
S Chris Conte vs. WR DeSean Jackson
Jackson is arguably the fastest receiver in the league. He's made a career out of the deep pass – he's averaged 24.2 yards per score on 28 career touchdowns. Expect the Eagles to send Jackson, and fellow speedy receiver Jeremy Maclin, down the field often to test Chicago's inexperienced safeties. Conte has played well the last two weeks, not giving up any big plays, but Philadelphia presents a much stiffer test. If Conte can keep Jackson and Maclin in front of him, the Bears defense will have a good shot at limiting the best offense in the NFL. But if the Eagles get behind the secondary, Chicago doesn't stand a chance. Of all the matchups in tonight's game, this one might be the most important.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.