After a rough start, the Philadelphia Eagles might finally be on their way to meeting the lofty expectations they set for themselves this season.
The Chicago Bears might not be a true Super Bowl contender at the moment, but they are certainly happy with the way they have played of late.
Each team looks for a third consecutive victory when they meet Monday night at Lincoln Financial Field. Most sports books monitored by SportsOptions have installed the Eagles as eight-point home favorites, with the total set at 47.
Saddled with Super Bowl expectations after adding six former Pro Bowlers to a roster that already included Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia (3-4) dropped four straight after a 31-13 opening win at St. Louis.
Just when it seemed the Eagles were ready to be branded a bust, they outscored division rivals Washington and Dallas 54-20 to win two straight since the skid and move within two games of NFC East-leading New York.
“We made tremendous strides to where we wanted to be,” linebacker Brian Rolle said. “I feel like we’ll continue to get better and better and we’ll be a force to be reckoned with.”
Philadelphia played like the Super Bowl contender many thought it would be when it rushed for a season-high 239 yards and did not commit a turnover for the first time this season in a 34-7 win over the Cowboys last Sunday night.
Vick was 21 of 28 for 279 yards with two touchdowns and also ran for 50 yards, while McCoy rushed for a career-high 185 and two TDs on 30 attempts.
The Eagles limited the Cowboys to 267 yards – the second straight week they held an opponent to fewer than 290.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Vick said. “We acknowledge the fact that we work hard each and every week and so we deserve to take a moment to reflect and enjoy this, but at the same time understand our position. We’ve got game two next week. The start of our new season.”
Though the Eagles are riding high for the moment, the Bears (4-3) have the potential to bring them down to earth. Chicago has won three of the last four meetings, including 31-26 last season and 19-16 in their last matchup in Philadelphia in 2007.
The Bears are coming off their bye week after outscoring Minnesota and Tampa Bay 63-28 the last two games.
“Things are on the way up,” said coach Lovie Smith, whose teams are 4-3 coming off the bye. “Feel real good about it. We’re a good football team.”
Chicago has been good when it comes to stopping Vick, who is 0-3 as a starter against the Bears. He has posted a 76.2 passer rating, rushed for 187 yards with no TDs, been intercepted three times and sacked 15 in five games versus Chicago.
The Bears remain confident they can keep the versatile quarterback in check.
“It’s real difficult for us because he creates a lot of time for the (receivers) to get open with his legs,” cornerback Tim Jennings said. “But we believe in our pass rush and our rush is going to get to him and make it easy for us in the back seven. So we’ve just got to stay in cover and believe in our pass rush.”
Though Chicago held the Vikings and Buccaneers to a combined 83 rushing yards over the last two games, McCoy averages an NFL-high 107.7 and has scored at least one touchdown in every game.
He has rushed for 152 yards and one TD on 30 carries in two games against the Bears.
Chicago has a budding backfield star of its own in Matt Forte, who leads the NFL with 1,091 scrimmage yards. He ran for 145 yards and a TD on 25 carries in a 24-18 win over Tampa Bay in London on Oct. 23.
Despite having not received the contract extension he wanted by this point in the season, Forte’s 672 rushing yards are the most by a Bear through seven games since Thomas Jones had 713 in 2005.
“It makes you feel good that I’m being successful on the field, and I want to continue to be successful out there,” said Forte, who ran for 117 yards on 14 carries against the Eagles in 2010.
Though Chicago has held the advantage versus Philadelphia, each of the last four meetings have been decided by five points or fewer.