CHICAGO (AP)Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles are rolling along with a playoff spot secured and their sights set on the No. 1 seed.
They’ve been particularly dominant in recent weeks. And it looks as though they have another mismatch on their hands.
The NFC East-leading Eagles will try to keep pace with the best start in franchise history when they visit Justin Fields and the struggling Chicago Bears on Sunday.
”It’s important for us to just continue to grow in our details and master our details,” said Hurts, the NFL’s top-rated passer.
The Eagles (12-1) have clearly established themselves as a Super Bowl favorite with Hurts leading the way. They boast the best record in the NFL by a two-game margin and locked up a playoff spot for the fifth time in six years with last week’s 48-22 romp over the New York Giants. That came on the heels of a 25-point win over Tennessee.
If things keep going this way, these Eagles have a chance to go down as the best team in franchise history.
That hinges on them winning the Super Bowl for the second time in six seasons. But for now, they’re racking up wins in a way only one other Philadelphia team has.
The 2004 Eagles are the only other squad in franchise history to start 12-1. Philadelphia won 13 of its first 14 that season and advanced to the Super Bowl before losing to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Chicago (3-10), of course, is in a far different place.
Though Fields has started to resemble the franchise cornerstone they hoped he would become, the Bears come out of a bye looking to stop their second six-game losing streak in three years. They haven’t dropped more than six in a row since an eight-game skid in 2002 that matched a franchise record.
The Bears can maybe take some comfort from Philadelphia. The Eagles lost five of their first seven games last year before going on a 7-2 run that propelled them to the playoffs.
”You can kind of flip it around pretty quickly in this league, I think, depending on what pieces you add and how guys grow in the system and all of that stuff,” Bears tight end Cole Kmet said. ”You definitely see that. It’s encouraging.”
SPOTLIGHT BEHIND CENTER
All eyes figure to be on the quarterbacks with Hurts making an MVP argument and Fields on a dazzling run.
Hurts comes in with 17 wins in his past 19 regular-season starts. He became the second-youngest QB to start 12-1 or better since the 1970 merger behind Miami’s Dan Marino in 1984, and he is the first at his position in NFL history with at least 10 rushing TDs in back-to-back seasons.
Fields returned to his show-stopping ways two weeks ago in a loss to Green Bay after missing a game because of an injury to his nonthrowing shoulder. Besides a 55-yard touchdown run, he also had arguably his best game as a passer, going 20 of 25 for a season-high 254 yards. He was not sacked for the first time this season, though he was intercepted on Chicago’s final two possessions.
”He’s always been a player that I’ve had a lot of respect for,” Hurts said.
Philadelphia has orchestrated an almost-worst-to-first-transformation when it comes to sacks, with a league-leading 49 after finishing 31st with 29 a year ago.
The Eagles have 13 over the past two games after getting seven last week. Brandon Graham had three against the Giants, and Haason Reddick earned his 10th. That made him the first player since 1982 with 10 or more sacks in three straight years with three different teams.
”It’s a lot of production by a lot of different guys,” coach Nick Sirianni said. ”It’s what’s pretty impressive about it.”
ON SECOND(ARY) THOUGHT
The Bears are getting some reinforcements in the secondary with safety Jaquan Brisker and cornerback Kyler Gordon out of the concussion protocol. The rookies are expected to be in the lineup for the first time since a loss at Atlanta on Nov. 20.
Then again, while they were sidelined, the Bears lost safety Eddie Jackson to a season-ending foot injury.
”It’s obviously different because BoJack was a leader and people like that are sitting out, so that’s tough,” said Brisker, who leads the Bears with three sacks.
The teams are playing at Soldier Field for the first time since their wild-card matchup four years ago.
The Eagles escaped with a 16-15 win in a game remembered mostly because of the double-doink field-goal miss by Chicago’s Cody Parkey off the upright and crossbar in the closing seconds.
The Eagles beat Chicago in a regular-season game in Philadelphia in 2019.
The Bears have a difficult stretch to end the season.
Three of their final four opponents are currently in first place, with home games against Buffalo next week and Minnesota in the finale, in addition to the matchup with Philadelphia. Chicago also visits Detroit on Jan. 1.
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