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Will the Nick Foles Experience End in the Windy City?

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is continuing to live up to his reputation as an unassuming assassin by leading Philadelphia to three straight wins (two of which were vs other playoff teams) and resurrecting the Eagles’ season as they attempt to defend their crown in the NFL playoffs. The stakes and the competition will be accelerated on Sunday in Chicago vs a Bears team that’s on an incredible 9-1 SU and ATS run, allowing just 14.9 points per game over that stretch.

The Bears opened the week as a -5.5 favorite and the game has a total of 41.

Shark Bites
  • The Bears are 8-1 ATS on the first-half spread in their last nine games.
  • The Eagles have a league-best 44.64% opponents’ red-zone TD scoring percentage.
  • The Bears are 5-0 SU and ATS in their last five games at home (avg. winning margin: 9.4).

Eagles vs Bears Game Center

Eagles peaking at the right time

It’s all about getting hot and being hot at the right time in the NFL playoffs and the Eagles will enter the playoffs on an absolute roll with wins over two division winners and a 24-0 smackdown of the Redskins in Week 17. The offense has been revitalized since Nick Foles took over three weeks ago as they’ve averaged 28.7 points and 420 yards per game during the three-game win streak. This is a far cry from Weeks 1-14 when they averaged 21.62 points and 352.7 yards per game.

The defense has also seen improvement during the three-game stretch, allowing just 4.8 yards per play to rate fifth-best in the NFL during that span. Over the course of the season, they’ve been excellent at limiting opponents to field-goal attempts while in the end zone, as they have a league-best 44.64 percent opponents’ red-zone TD scoring percentage. They’ve also allowed just two passing touchdowns over their last three games.

The balanced attack, which also includes a league-best time of possession over the last three weeks, makes the defending champs an excellent sleeper candidate to go back to back and although I don’t think they’ll win this game, I can’t fault anyone for taking a risk on them at +3500 to go all the way.

Bears are the best bet in the NFL

Speaking of peaking at the right time, the Bears have been peaking since late October and are 7-1 SU and ATS at home. They finished out the regular season at 12-4 SU and ATS and have covered the spread in nine of their last 10 games. They allowed the fewest points per game during the regular season and were a serious problem for opposing offenses, ranking first in interceptions and third in sacks.

Specific to playing at home, they rank first overall in net yards per play at home and six of their seven wins at Soldier Field were by seven points or more. The benefit of being in Chicago should give second-year QB Mitch Trubisky a nice boost as his QB rating is 14.5 points higher in his career at home.

It is worth noting, however, that Trubisky had one of the worst starts of his young career vs the Eagles last season when he posted a stat line of zero touchdowns and two interceptions with a 51.52 completion percentage, leading the Bears to just three points. He did take some steps forward this season, but it can’t be denied that his play can be quite erratic at times. If he can protect the ball and control the nerves of playing in his first playoff game, the Bears’ run of wins and covering the spread will continue.

Is the total too low?

At 41 points, this is the lowest total for Wild Card Weekend and is also perhaps the most difficult totals bet to pull the trigger on. Both teams played above that number this season, with Bears home games having an average combined score of 45.63 and Eagles road games having an average combined score of 46.25, but more recent scoring trends point to a lower number.

The Bears’ last four games have had a minuscule average combined score of 29.75. Combining that with the Eagles’ ability to keep opponents out of the end zone on red-zone visits makes UNDER the side I’d lean to.

My best bet

Bears -3 first-half spread.

If you’ve followed my NFL coverage on Twitter this season, you know that this has been one of my favorite bets during the second half. It’s hit in eight of the last nine weeks and I’m not just chasing a trend — I like it because the stats back it up. The Bears led the league in first-half point differential at +8 and finished the season at 11-5 ATS in the first half. The Eagles tied for the second-worst first-half spread record at 6-10 ATS.

For the record, I also expect the Bears to cover the full-game spread, but I feel more confident in the first-half wager due to Chicago’s defensive drop-offs in the second half of games. In the first half, the Bears allow a league-low six points per game but allowed 11.3 in the second half.

The whole Nick Foles thing is a fun story, but against this defense and on the road, the Eagles will be grounded. I bet you’ve never heard that expression about the Eagles or any other bird teams before. If I was picking against the Bears, I would have gone with something along the lines of, “Eagles will put the Bears into hibernation,” but maybe I’ll save that one for the divisional round. We’ll see.