NFC Wild Card Preview – Can Nick Foles Pull Off The Unthinkable?

NFC Wild Card Preview – Can Nick Foles Pull Off The Unthinkable?
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The 2018 season was certainly not the easiest for the Philadelphia Eagles, who were largely plagued with injuries. Even Carson Wentz was infected by said plague, as he struggled through an ongoing back injury for the majority of the year. That said, with the Eagles in turmoil at 6-7 after a crushing defeat to the Dallas Cowboys, a familiar face led the team back to the postseason. Speaking of which, the Eagles face arguably the most dangerous team in the dance, the Chicago Bears. They, for me, are the most dominant team on defence, which I’ll discuss later. More importantly however, the Bears are fearless in their approach to the game, which means they can beat just about anybody. Nevertheless a familiar question remains – can Nick Foles do the unthinkable? 

The Impossible Might Just Be Possible

As aforementioned, a downtrodden roster who had their heart ripped from their chest in week 14, needed to find their way back. Unbelievably, Nick Foles was the hero once more who lead the way. After returning to the lineup for the final 3 games of the season, he accumulated a total of 962 yards and 6 touchdowns, whilst garnering 3 wins out of 3. This, coupled with the Vikings’ capitulation, was enough to clinch a spot in the playoffs. Foles single-handedly resurrected a season from the depths of demise, and he might just beat the Bears too, and here’s exactly why. 

Firstly, the offensive line have been performing significantly better in recent weeks. In all three games, they’ve allowed a measly 4 sacks. As well as that, the run game has improved mightily due to excellent run blocking. 

In the receiving core, Foles has ignited a fire within Alshon Jeffrey, who’s been a shell of his former self. In just 16 receptions, Jeffrey has compiled 321 yards, averaging 20 yards per catch. Their partnership will be absolutely vital in deciding the winner of this game. In addition to that, Zach Ertz has been immense all season. A reliable outlet, as well as a consistent deep-threat, Ertz has notched 1163 yards and 8 touchdowns on 116 receptions. As evidenced, Nick Foles’ strongest asset is his cannon of an arm, and he’ll need to use it wisely come Sunday. 

Underestimated Defence 

For a large part of the season the Eagles were stripped bare of much of their key talents. Despite that, they still possess one of the most talented D-lines in football. for example, Fletcher Cox has been dominant as ever, coming off a 3 sack game against the Redskins. Furthermore, Michael Bennett has been a constant contributor at the line of scrimmage since his arrival in the offseason. 

Another key player on defence is Rasul Douglas. His meteoric rise through the ranks hasn’t gone unnoticed. In just 16 games (7 of which he started), Douglas has 3 interceptions, 4 pass deflections, 58 tackles and 6 tackles for a loss. His performances this season depicts that of a starting corner for any team, thus the Eagles are lucky to have him. 

An Underrated Offensive Unit

Head coach Matt Nagy has revolutionised the Bears in such a short space of time. Mitchell Trubisky has improved immensely under Nagy, as well as the defence, who has risen to become one of the most domineering in all of football. Most importantly, the Bears finally snapped a ten-year drought by clinching the North this year. 

The previously alluded to Trubisky has been a joy to watch this year, posing a dual-threat 

with both his arm and legs. He boasts a 66.6% pass completion percentage on the year, whilst having amassed 3223 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. He has also created numerous plays on the run too, which makes him unpredictable. 

The Bears also boast a fantastic run game in Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard. Cohen’s elite speed and agility makes him a fantastic outlet for Trubisky, whilst also possessing solid vision. On the other hand, the latter is a North-South runner and is incredibly difficult to take down. 

The Most Dominant Force In The NFL

Finally, the Chicago Bears defence is so tantalisingly exquisite in their execution, there’s no team in the NFL who could dismiss them easily. The pickup of Khalil Mack was remarkable in its inception, and has paid dividends ever since. In 14 games, Mack has recorded 1 pick-six, 6 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries, 4 pass deflections, 12.5 sacks and 10 TFL. His performances have also rubbed off on the defence as a whole. Notably, Akiem Hicks who has also contributed 5 pass deflections, 3 forced fumbles, 7.5 sacks and 12 TFL. 

In the backfield, Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller have combined for 13 interceptions. 2 of which Jackson converted into pick six’s. 

As a whole, the Bears are ranked number 1 in takeaways, pass deflections and defensive touchdowns. They also rank third in sacks (50) and fourth in yards lost on sacks (339). 

The Final Verdict 

Creating an underdog out of the Eagles is never a good idea. Just ask the 2017 Super Bowl champions for evidence. With that in mind however, the Chicago Bears certainly won’t be undermining the magnitude of this game, nor the quality of the Eagles. Mitchell Trubisky stated on Wednesday that “we haven’t played our best football yet. We’re going to stay hungry and stay humble.” and honestly, I believe him. This football team really can go all the way, and I think they’ll do exactly that after beating the Eagles. 

Image Rights – Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY SPORTS

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