Monday Night Football: Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) look to continue digging out of their season-starting hole tonight at home against the Chicago Bears (4-3), in what should be an exciting and action-packed Monday Night Football game for sports and online sportsbook betting fans alike. After being touted as a favorite to make this year’s Super Bowl, the very talented Eagles, dotted with great free-agent acquisitions during the offseason, still have a long way to go to regain their stature as one of the better teams in the league. However, earning a victory on Monday night and moving to an even .500 record on the season would be the first big step back to building a team confidence that looked badly shaken through the first 5 weeks of NFL play. The #1 ranked offense in the NFL may indeed get the break in the season they are looking for tonight against a formerly top-ranked defensive unit of the Bears, which has struggled with injuries, traded personnel and inexperience to fall out of grace to 25th overall in total defense.

The Chicago Bears truly haven’t looked anything at all like the Bears of the past few years, as both sides of the football are showing key deficiencies that have made them vulnerable against stand-out teams in the NFL. The pass rush for the Bears has been almost ineffective, with opponents averaging 271.9 yards passing per game (28th in the league), and what is truly troubling is that Chicago’s top defensive contributors, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije have just 7 sacks between them combined this season through 7 games. The passing game led by Jay Cutler has been almost painful to watch this season, as the relatively young offensive line has certainly shown struggles without the veteran leadership of Olin Kreutz at center, and has frequently made life in the pocket a scary proposition. However, despite such glaring fundamental issues, the Bears have been able to stick to relying on running back Matt Forte, who has been outstanding this season (672 yards rushing, 419 receiving), as well as taking advantage of mistakes (for example Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman throwing 4 picks in Week 7 against them), and will now be seeking a 3rd straight victory after beating the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers 39-10 and 24-18 respectively prior to their Week 8 bye. Add to the fact that Chicago can gain a bit of confidence knowing they’ve beaten Philadelphia in 3 of the last 4 meetings between the two teams, and the Bears march into tonight’s MNF contest well rested, focused on stopping a powerful offensive Eagles unit, and looking for any ways to throw of the Eagles game and squeeze out another gritty win this week.

For Philadelphia, last week was a glimpse at the team the Eagles had been pegged to be in the preseason, as they dismantled the Dallas Cowboys 34-7 behind running back LeSean McCoy’s career-best 184 yards with 2 touchdowns. Philly put up almost 500 yards of total offense while Michael Vick had a near flawless evening (21/28, 279 yards passing, 50 rushing, 2 TDs), but perhaps the most important attribute for the Eagles was their shutdown defense, which limited Dallas to just 18 minutes of possession time, 267 total yards (second straight week the Eagles allowed less than 290 yards total offense), and sacked Dallas QB Tony Romo 4 times. Defensive End Jason Babin, one of Philly’s key off-season acquisitions, continued his strong play sacking Romo twice to make for 9 total sacks on the season, and along with names like Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins, and 2nd year linebacker Jamar Cheney (leads the team with 43 tackles), the 10th ranked Philadelphia defense could be just as exciting to watch in the next few weeks as their #1-ranked offense is.

For this match-up tonight, there’s a number of key points both sides will want to improve upon in order to come out victorious in tonight’s Monday Night Football contest. First for the Bears, the offensive line is key to keeping the Bears’ offense chugging along and keeping pace with the Eagles top-rated attack. Jay Cutler simply must get more protection to allow him to look downfield, and get pressure off of star running back Matt Forte. Without being able to use Johnny Knox and Devin Hester downfield, Cutler becomes limited to the running game, and short passes to Forte, who no doubt will be shadowed by the likes of Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominque Rogers-Cromartie anytime he’s out in the flats. Though we all know Forte can dictate a game by himself, with the Eagles defense continuing to improve while being bolstered by a talented offense, diversity in the passing game will be essential to Chicago’s game plan tonight. The other big area that the Bears must to better at is passing defense, one which could be the main point the Eagles will seek to exploit tonight. Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. If Michael Vick is left to have control of the pocket, and room to run, it’ll be over before the Bears know it, but if they can get a push with their players rested off a bye week, a scrambling Vick could be forced to turn the ball over, or even get hurt as he tries to do too much with the ball.

For the Eagles, it’s all about keeping momentum going. If Philadelphia can spread their offense around, I don’t think Chicago has a chance to contain them. Take last week for example (yes, I get to pat myself on the back about TE Brent Celek now) against Dallas. While everyone expected Michael Vick to keep targets strictly to LeSean McCoy, Jason Avant and DeSean Jackson, last week Brent Celek, who despite being all but ignored in the first 6 games (13 passes for 106 yards), torched Dallas for 7 catches, 94 yards and TD, and took plenty of pressure off the usual suspects on offense. Though LeSean McCoy was certainly the star of the show, finding a weakness in the Dallas D (ranked 31st against opponent tight ends, despite ranking 12th in total defense) outside of the backfield gave the Eagles a big advantage downfield, and gave Michael Vick even more room to operate comfortably. With the Bears struggling against the pass (which wasn’t an issue against Minnesota or Tampa Bay), Michael Vick could have a field day tonight at home, much like his career-best day on Monday Night last season. Aside from just keeping the offense going, if the Eagles can keep their solid pass rush going and knock Jay Cutler around a bit, and limit Matt Forte to just a good outing (we can likely expect somewhere between 100-150 total yards anytime he’s in a game), this is Philly’s game to win.

Betting Lines for Monday Night Football, Philadelphia vs. Chicago has the featured online sportsbook for Monday’s NFL Football offering, and starting out with the money line wagering options, the Philadelphia Eagles hit home field as the odds-on favorite at -400 while the visiting Chicago Bears are +320 underdogs. The spread for tonight’s match-up finds the Eagles giving up 8.5 points and the Bears getting 8.5 points, as the bookmakers fully expect the Eagles offense to overwhelm in this game. The over/under seems a little low at 47 points with the top-ranked offense on the field against a formerly-stout-but-presently-questionable Chicago D, but if this Monday Night Football game turns into a defensive affair, and/or Chicago fails to get offense generated, the under wager on total points may not be a bad way to turn, especially if you’re banking on a dominant Eagles’ showing.

Our Pick to Win:

While Chicago seeks a third straight win, Philadelphia looks to be the hotter team coming into this match-up, and at home at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles get our nod to win this exciting Monday Night Football game this evening. Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and the Eagles talented receivers are simply going to be too much for even the rested Bears defense to contend with, especially when expecting that the improving Eagles defense will make life difficult for Jay Cutler all night long. With the Bears spending too much time with their defense on the field, the Eagles will exploit and run away with the Monday Night Football game tonight, getting to even .500 on the season with a 35-17 win.

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