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4 things to watch in Bears-Eagles game

Bears quarterback Justin Fields
Bears quarterback Justin Fields

The Bears (3-10) will look to snap a six-game losing streak when they host the Eagles (12-1) Sunday at Soldier Field. Here are four storylines to follow in the game:

(1) How will the Bears fare against the NFL's best team?

The Eagles will provide quite a litmus test for the Bears this weekend. Philadelphia will arrive in Chicago with the NFL's best record (12-1), point-differential (plus-138) and turnover ratio (plus-14). The Eagles also lead the league in scoring (29.7 points per game) and their defense ranks No. 1 in sacks (49), takeaways (24), interceptions (15) and passing yards (178.7 per game).

"I'm excited to see what we can do as a team," said quarterback Justin Fields. "These guys, they're labeled as one of the best teams in the league, so any chance you get to go up against a team like this, [and] the Buffalo Bills next week, it's awesome just to see what we can do."

As Fields mentioned, the AFC East-leading Bills (10-3) will follow the Eagles into Soldier Field a week from Saturday (Dec. 24). It's a major factor in the Bears having the NFL's most difficult schedule over the final four weeks of the season, facing opponents with a combined .731 winning percentage. 

"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 against these guys," said coach Matt Eberflus. "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 … It's going to be a big challenge for our football team."

(2) Will Fields and the Bears offense stay on a roll?

The 2021 first-round pick has continued to make major strides throughout his second NFL season, emerging as a dangerous dual threat. Fields ranks eighth in the NFL in rushing and first among quarterbacks with 905 yards and eight touchdowns on 128 carries and has thrown for 1,896 yards and 13 TDs.

In his last six starts, the former Ohio State star has accounted for 16 touchdowns, rushing for 623 yards and seven TDs on 74 carries and completing 93 of 148 passes for 1,027 yards with nine TDs, five interceptions and an 89.6 passer rating.

While the Bears continue to lead the NFL in rushing, averaging 189.2 yards per game, Fields has shown growth as a passer. He described his passing performance against the Packers two weeks ago as his best of the season after he completed 20 of 25 attempts for a season-high 254 yards while not getting sacked for the first time this year.

Fields will face the NFL's top pass defense Sunday without top receivers Darnell Mooney, who is out for the season with an ankle injury; and Chase Claypool, who has been ruled out of this weekend's game with a knee injury. Equanimeous St. Brown, Byron Pringle, Dante Pettis, N'Keal Harry and Velus Jones Jr. will look to pick up the slack against the Eagles, who are on pace to become the first defense to lead the NFL in sacks, takeaways and passing yards since the 1974 Super Bowl champion Steelers.

(3) Will a struggling Bears defense be able to contain quarterback Jalen Hurts and an explosive Eagles offense?

Hurts is a top contender for NFL MVP this season, leading the league in passer rating (108.4), touchdown-to-interception ratio (22-3) and rushing TDs by a quarterback (10). The 2020 second-round pick from Alabama is attempting to become the second QB to top the NFL in all three categories in the Super Bowl era, joining Steve Young, who accomplished the feat for the 1994 Super Bowl champion 49ers. Hurts has passed for 3,157 yards and rushed for 686 yards.

"He's really clear and concise on his reads and where he wants to go with the ball," Eberflus said. "He doesn't mess around with a lot of different, 'look here, look over there.' He does a really good job of knowing where the coverage is telling him where to put the ball, and I think he delivers it on time. He's a very accurate passer. Throws a good deep ball. I think he's really running that offense at a high rate."

The Eagles offense also boasts an outstanding line, running back Miles Sanders and receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. This season Sanders and Brown have become Philadelphia's first 1,000-yard rusher and receiver, respectively, since 2014.

"We have a challenge every week with offenses, but this week both hands are full," said defensive coordinator Alan Williams. "I am not quite sure that they have any weaknesses. Usually, you try to make a team play left-handed, but they run the ball well, they have big plays in the passing game … I think [they're] the most complete team in the NFL, so we have our hands full."

(4) How will rookie DBs Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker perform in their return to action?

After missing the last two games due to concussions, the Bears' top two picks in this year's draft will rejoin the secondary Sunday after practicing without restrictions all week.

Gordon started the first 11 games of the season, lining up at cornerback and then moving inside to nickel back in passing situations. He has recorded 55 tackles, one interception, two tackles-for-loss, four pass breakups and one forced fumble. Brisker started the first 11 games at safety, registering 73 tackles, one interception, a team-leading 3.0 sacks, five tackles-for-loss, one pass breakup, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

"Having Gordon there as the nickel, that'll be a big piece for us going forward," Eberflus said. "A lot of teams play 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end and three receivers), so we'll be in that group a lot. And obviously the impact Brisker has with his hitting and ball-hawking skills, we're excited to get both of those guys back."

Hopefully, their presence will provide a boost to a defense that has failed to generate a takeaway in four of the last five games and ranks last in the NFL in sacks (16) and third-down efficiency (48.7 percent).

"We have to create takeaways and give our offense short fields and give them extra possessions because they do possess the football the way they run it," Williams said.

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