NFC playoff preview: Bears are back in the hunt
The Chicago Bears are back.
Back in the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Back in the Super Bowl hunt with a team that has won nine of its last 10 games. And back to relevance with a team that went 7-1 at home this season after going 7-17 at Soldier Field during the previous three seasons.
The Bears’ first task: stopping the Philadelphia Eagles from going back to back.
The defending Super Bowl champions play at Chicago on Sunday, with Nick Foles looking to make another forehead-slapping run through the postseason. Replacing the injured Carson Wentz, Foles did the unthinkable last season, leading the Eagles to their first Lombardi Trophy and earning Super Bowl most-valuable-player honors. He’s 3-1 in the postseason for his career.
Chicago, which has a leading defensive-player-of-the-year candidate in linebacker Khalil Mack, led the NFL in takeaways (36) and interceptions (27), and tied for third in sacks (50).
In the clear
This season marks the 30th anniversary of the “Fog Bowl,” the 1988 playoff game between Philadelphia and Chicago, when Soldier Field was so shrouded in pea-soup fog that fans in the stands couldn’t see what was happening on the field for much of the game. Chicago wound up winning 20-12.
“I remember looking to the left side of the field and we thought the stadium was on fire because it was that thick and was billowing over the side of the wall,” former Eagles linebacker Mike Reichenbach recalled in an interview with the Associated Press.
“It was like a horror movie. It engulfed the stadium in no time.”
All-Pro Chicago safety Eddie Jackson was listed as questionable Friday because of a right ankle injury, and the Bears won’t make a determination on him until game day.
He’s a key componentto that smothering defense.
Coach Matt Nagy said it’s possible the Bears will play Jackson even if he isn’t 100% “because it’s win or go home.”
The Bears started third-year backup Deon Bush in the last two games with Jackson injured.
By the numbers
How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which are for the season (league rank in parentheses):
Sam Farmer’s pick
Foles has some magic to him, and he’s tough enough to battle through the chest soreness from last week, but Chicago’s defense figures to dictate this one. The Bears have a young and inconsistent quarterback, but they can run it when they need to.
BEARS 17, EAGLES 13