LAKE FOREST – For the next two weeks at Soldier Field, the Bears will go against legitimate Super Bowl contenders in the Eagles and Bills.
Even though the Bears will be heavy underdogs in both games, coach Matt Eberflus is viewing these next two weeks as a chance to see how his team matches up in all phases against the premier opposition in the league.
“We look at it as an opportunity and a great challenge to be able to see our guys match up individually and also as units, to be able to match up against these guys,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said on Monday. “We’re going to play two of the best defenses in the league over the next couple of weeks and obviously two of the best offenses. Both really good quarterbacks. Both are really solid and really good on special teams. So it’s going to be a big challenge for our football team.”
Offensively, the Bears will go up against defenses that know how to get after the quarterback. The Eagles lead the league in sacks with 49, and the Bills are ninth with 35.
“I mean, it’s the deepest unit in the NFL, for sure, in terms of talent and then in terms of experience,” Sam Mustipher said on the Eagles’ defensive line. “Like I alluded to earlier, it’s a team that knows how to win football games. There’s a lot of veteran presence on that side of the ball. But the front seven, I mean, really the back end, if we want to talk about the whole defense, it’s super talented.”
Despite the Eagles having players like Fletcher Cox, Brandom Graham, Javon Hargrave, etc., these are the kind of matchups that Mustipher looks forward to.
“Anytime you work the way we work and you train the way we train, these are the tests that you want,” Mustipher said. “This is what you do all that training for. You don’t want to go in and face an easy challenge. You want to see what you’re made of. We’ve been hearing, ‘The offense is doing this and the offense is doing that,’ but this is a great challenge for us. We’re looking forward to it.”
Along with being able to sack opposing quarterbacks, the Eagles are also No. 1 in creating turnovers (24) and the Bills are fourth with 22. Both defenses also limit total yardage – the Eagles in third and the Bills are ninth.
Against the Packers, Justin Fields had his best performance through the air, but it’s going to be tough to replicate those numbers these next two games.
On the defensive side of the ball for the Bears, the challenges only continue. From A.J. Brown to DeVonta Smith to Stefon Diggs, the Eagles and Bills are stocked with skill players. But the toughest test will be trying to contain quarterbacks Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen.
“I mean he’s super athletic and I mean he can improvise kind of on the run and go off script similar to Justin,” Jack Sanborn said on the difficulties of stopping Hurts. “And so it’s definitely going to be a challenge. Definitely they have a lot of different designed runs to help him get involved in the run game and so it’s going to be everybody focused on their keys, knowing their rules and playing good football.”
The Bears have struggled on defense all season, currently giving up the fourth-most points per game at 25.6, and are dead last in the league in sacks with 16. These next two games could easily make those statistics look worse than what they already are.
Still, Sanborn and the rest of the Bears know there is plenty to play for with the 2022 season, especially with an opportunity to showcase what the team can do against possible Super Bowl contenders.
“I don’t really think it’s evenー obviously the Eagles, and then I think you’re talking about the Bills, two of the really good teams we have coming upー but I don’t think it really matters as much to them as just to us and us playing good football,” Sanborn said. “Us closing out a game and us getting that win.”
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