The Eagles (9-7) will face the Chicago Bears (12-4) at Soldier Field on Sunday. The Eagles come in as the underdog, but they have been playing some of the hottest football in the NFL over the last six weeks, going 5-1 to close the regular season.
Quarterback Nick Foles “continues to get better every day,” according to coach Doug Pederson. Foles has been playing some of the best football of his career over the last few weeks. He has thrown for 962 yards and six touchdowns while leading the Eagles to a playoff berth. Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh has had Foles throw the ball over 30 times in the last three games since he took over for the injured Carson Wentz.
The Eagles have played many notable games in 2018 and the first game of 2019 won’t be any different in Chicago.
“I’ll tell you when I was in Green Bay I got to go down there at least once a year,” Pederson said about Soldier Field. “First of all it’s a great atmosphere, it’s a great atmosphere for football and fans are unbelievable, it’s incredible.”
Pederson emphasized the energetic crowds in Chicago, but he also made it a point that the weather changes a ton in January. The grass is different, it will be colder, the sun will be down because it is a later game, but the Eagles coaching staff has been preparing the team for these conditions.
Nick Foles’ health will be on the minds of many spectators entering the game, but Pederson has confidence in whoever lines up under center on Sunday. Pederson said that third-string QB Nate Sudfeld is “one play away” from seeing reps in a game, but has been aware of that for the last three weeks and is ready.
Zach Ertz has been a key weapon in the Eagles possession all season, and he will likely play a large role in determining the outcome of this game. Ertz has been clutch in later downs catching 66 passes for first downs this season, while scoring eight times.
Ertz is leading all tight ends in receptions this season with 116, and he finished the regular season with over 1,000 yards. He is second in the entire NFL in receptions only behind Michael Thomas of the Saints who has 125.
Even though the Eagles don’t have a first-round bye this year as they did a season ago, Zach believes they have all their goals still in front of them. Regular season records are irrelevant now as long as you keep winning the next game.
“We didn’t sneak into this thing, we had to earn our way into it,” Ertz said. “At the same time, everything is 0-0 right now, everyone’s record is the same.”
Ertz said they are doing everything they can to prepare themselves for a tough matchup in Chicago and make sure that the season does not end here. Zach expressed that the team is “exhausting all resources.”
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has come up big late in the season and has made his presence known, and he would love nothing more to get a win versus his former team this Sunday. Pederson mentioned in a press conference on Friday that Jeffery is excited to head back to Chicago for this round of the playoffs. Chicago is the team that drafted Jeffery and gave him the opportunity to prove himself as an elite receiver in the league.
Looking at the Bears defense, they are No. 3 in YPG allowed (299.7), and they boast the No. 1 rushing defense. They only let up 80 YPG on the ground, and have shut down opposing teams’ run games all year.
Chicago leads the league in takeaways and has 27 interceptions this season (most in NFL) scoring on five of them. They have forced 18 fumbles, tied for second, and have scored on one. They have the most defensive touchdowns in the NFL with six.
This week will be a tough challenge for Philadelphia, but they will be able to draw on their postseason experience from a year ago, something the Bears do not have. No. 86 and the rest of the Eagles have been underdogs before and have proven that no challenge is too difficult to overcome.
“We are extremely confident in our abilities as a football team, we got all the confidence in the world,” Ertz said. “Of the guys that are going to be taking the field on Sunday, it’s going to be a really tough game. I mean that defense is physical, this game is going to be a very tough game to win, but we’re excited about it.”
Kickoff in Chicago is set for 4:40 p.m. ET and will air on NBC.