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Gabriel: Who Do Bears Match Up With Best?

The Bears are likely to face the Vikings or Eagles in the wild-card round.

Greg Gabriel
December 28, 2018 - 10:16 am
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(670 The Score) Entering the final week of the regular season, the Bears are in line to earn the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs with an outside possibility of leaping up to the No. 2 seed and securing a first-round bye.

That latter scenario is unlikely, given that it would take a Bears victory against the Vikings and the 49ers pulling a road upset of the Rams. San Francisco hasn't won a road game yet this season.

If the Bears (11-4) remain the No. 3 seed, they could still face the Vikings (8-6-1), Eagles (8-7) or Seahawks (9-6) in the wild-card round. Facing the Vikings or Eagles is most likely, as the Seahawks will clinch the No. 5 seed with a victory against the struggling Cardinals (3-12) at home.

With all that in mind, let's break down how the Bears would match up against their two most likely playoff foes.

Vikings

The Bears and Vikings know each other well as divisional foes. Chicago won a big matchup at Soldier Field on Nov. 18, dominating for most of the game.

While the Vikings' personnel hasn't changed since then, their game-planning sure has. Earlier in the season, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer pleaded with then-offensive coordinator John DeFilippo to run the ball more, as he felt the Vikings were relying too much on the pass and not controlling the clock. When DeFilippo ignored Zimmer’s request, he was fired and replaced by quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski, who has drastically changed the play-calling.

The Vikings have averaged 34 rushes for 160 yards in their past two games, considerable upticks over their season average. While that's what Zimmer wants, it also plays into the strength of Chicago, which is second in the NFL in rushing defense at 81.1 yards per game. 

Minnesota is also still giving up pressure on quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has been sacked four times in each of the past two games despite the newfound reliance on the rushing attack.

While the Bears should be confident in their ability to handle the Vikings offense in a potential playoff matchup, the Minnesota defense is more concerning. The Vikings utilize an attacking 4-3 scheme and have one of the best pass rushing groups in the NFL, with 

While the Bears defense should not have much of a problem with the Minnesota offense, their defense is another story. The Vikings play an attack 4-3 scheme and they are one of the best pass rushing teams in the NFL. To date, they have recorded an NFL-high 50 sacks.

There really isn’t a soft spot in the Vikings defense, as it's strong at all three levels. The defensive line has both size and speed, the linebackers are athletic and the secondary is experienced and boast the ability to create turnovers.

Though they controlled the game in their win against the Vikings earlier this season, the Bears still only had 308 yards of total offense.

Eagles

If the Bears beat the Vikings on Sunday and the Eagles beat the Redskins, Chicago will then host Philadelphia in the wild-card round, assuming the Los Angeles Rams also take care of business.

Even though the Bears haven't played the Eagles this season, they still know the Philadelphia offense well. That's because Bears coach Matt Nagy and Eagles coach Doug Pederson both hail from the Andy Reid tree and run similar offenses. 

The Eagles are playing well lately but are banged up. Entering this Sunday, they have 12 players on injured reserve, including five who used to start. They've been forced to use street free agents at times in recent weeks because of their injuries, particularly in the secondary. Even so, their defense is 11th in the NFL in sacks.

What the Eagles do well is throw the football. Backup quarterback Nick Foles is starting and has a way of coming up big when games count. In the last two weeks, Foles has thrown for a combined 741 yards. In a must-win situation last Sunday, he threw for 471 yards and four touchdowns in a 32-30 win against the Texans.

The Eagles' receiver corps is excellent. Receivers Alshon Jeffery, Golden Tate and Nelson Agholor are dangerous, and tight end Zach Ertz is the go-to guy with 113 receptions. Jeffery, Tate and Agholor have different types of skill sets, which make them difficult to defend. Jeffery is the tall possession receiver, Agholor can get deep and Tate is excellent after the catch. Ertz runs exceptional pass routes and is sure-handed.

The Eagles have had multiple injuries at running back, but rookie Josh Adams has played well in December, as had veteran Darren Sproles, who's to the Philadelphia offense what Tarik Cohen is to Chicago's. Sproles is capable of coming up with a big play on any given touch.

While the Bears should be able to move the ball on the Eagles defense, the Philadelphia offense would be tough to defend, especially given the way it has played since Foles has been back at quarterback.

Regardless of who the Bears play, it will prove to be a difficult task.

Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who's an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.​​​​