Up until Week 17, Philadelphia’s chances of defending their Super Bowl championship was in serious doubt. The Eagles needed Chicago to beat the Minnesota Vikings and they had to take down the rival Washington Redskins to make it to the NFL Wildcard Weekend betting round.
Surprisingly, both of those things happened. On Sunday, Philadelphia begins the quest for the Vince Lombardi Trophy repeat against the team that propelled them into the playoffs, the Chicago Bears. The odds makers and most NFL handicappers feel Philly has no shot. The Eagles are the biggest underdog in any of the 4 wildcard weekend games.
But, Philadelphia seems unperturbed by the negativity. The Eagles head to Soldier Field on a roll, winning their final 3 regular season games. Can they continue the Super Bowl title defense as the sixth seed in the NFC?
The Bears didn’t care that beating the Minnesota Vikings sent the Eagles to the playoffs. Chicago fought the Vikings hard in Week 17 because they wanted the second seed. Now that they must play the Eagles in NFL Wildcard Weekend betting, Chicago figures to be every bit as fired up as they’d be if they had gotten the 2-seed and the bye.
It should be a bruising, hard fought, game when Philly lands in Chicago on Sunday. Which team takes it?
NFL Wildcard Weekend Betting
Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears
Sunday, January 6th – Soldier Field – 4:40pm ET
Odds: Chicago -5.5 (41)
Most Important Eagles’ Goal? Protect Nick Foles
Before Week 15, the Philadelphia Eagles appeared again to be in dire straits. Last year, the Eagles had to turn to backup quarterback Nick Foles after starter Carson Wentz got hurt.
This season, it was déjà vu. Wentz got hurt. Foles had to replace him. But, just like last season, Foles lifted the entire Eagles’ boat so that Philadelphia heads to Chicago more confident and playing football better than they have during the entire season.
Starting with the 30-23 upset win over the Rams as a +13.5 road dog, Foles has done everything right. His most important attribute might be the one that’s hard to put into words, his ability to get everyone around him to play better.
It’s often said, but never proven that some quarterbacks have that thing that makes every player on the team want to perform well. Maybe, it’s simple leadership. Or, maybe, quarterbacks like Foles are magicians. No matter what it is, every Eagles’ player on both sides of the ball relishes the challenge when Nick Foles is under center.
It helps that Foles has been great since taking over as the starter. He completed 77% against the Rams, 71% versus Houston, and 84% against Washington. His TD to INT ratio is 6-3. It’s a stark turnaround from his first two games of the season, where he looked pathetic while playing in relief of a rehabbing Carson Wentz.
The one potential issue is that Foles will step onto Soldier Field with his ribs bruised. That’s why the Eagles’ best chance of pulling off the NFL Wildcard Weekend betting upset is to protect their best player.
Bears Can’t Relax
On paper, Chicago should easily handle the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears are loaded on both sides of the football and no team has been playing as well as they are heading into the postseason.
But, the Bears are a young squad on both sides of the football as well. What Chicago must understand, and it could be hard for them to get this, is how things change from the regular season to the postseason. Teams ratchet it up in the postseason. The Bears can’t expect to face the Philly squad that lost 7 games during the regular season.
No matter how well Chicago looked in their final 9 games, no matter how well Mitch Trubisky has thrown the ball in 2018, no matter how much smarter Nagy’s looked than their opponents’ head coaches, the Bears are still an inexperienced squad facing the defending Super Bowl champs.
If the Bears relax, pat themselves on the back before kickoff at going from one of the worst teams in the NFL to one of the best, they could end up watching things unfold on their televisions next weekend.
Chicago must bring the same attitude that led to the 12 wins. Anything less and the Eagles will knock them out of the playoffs.
Eagles at Bears Betting Analysis and Pick
The line’s gone up half a point to Chicago -6. There’s nothing in the trends to dissuade Chicago backers.
The Bears are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games on grass, 7-1 ATS in their last 8 games following an ATS win, and 16-4-1 ATS in their last 21 home games. Philadelphia’s got some nice trends too, but none appear to be as solid as the Bears’.
Although Chicago should cover based on trends, it’s hard to look past Philadelphia making this desperately close. The Eagles are the defending champions for a reason. Not only are they the defending champs, but Foles has been unreal.
Also, Bears starting safety Eddie Jackson didn’t practice on Wednesday. If Jackson can’t go, or if he’s limited in some way, Nick could carve up Chicago’s secondary like a turkey. The Eagles have a shot of beating Chicago straight up, but I’ll take the points on Philly to keep it closer than 6.
NFL Wildcard Weekend Betting Free Pick: Eagles +6