When the Bears play on Sunday night against the Eagles in Philadelphia, they may be playing for the chance to win the NFC North that night. That is of course if the Lions (vs the Giants) and Packers (vs the Steelers) lose earlier in the day, but it's possible.
The bottom line is that if the Bears take their of their own business by beating the Eagles in week 16 and the Packers in week 17, they don't need to worry about what anyone else does; they're division champs.
So Sunday night's game is a huge opportunity for the Bears, and they may be getting a huge boost to the defense for it.
Linebacker practiced in limited fashion on Wednesday at Halas Hall, and Marc Trestman is optimistic that the seven-time Pro Bowl selection will be able to play vs the Eagles:
“I’m optimistic he’ll play,” coach Marc Trestman said. “How much [playing time]? We’ll see how he feels. I’ll be able to better answer that question after Friday’s practice, and it may even go into Sunday. He did get some work [Wednesday] and I did talk him afterwards and he said he felt pretty good.”Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Briggs left the Bears' game on October 20 against the Washington Redskins with a fractured shoulder, and it was initially estimated that the linebacker would miss to four-to-six weeks. Well, he's already missed more time than that, and didn't return to practice until last week.
Without Briggs over the last seven games, the Bears has been historically bad against the run, and the weak side linebacker is one of the best in the game at stopping the run.
Briggs has a +3.7 grade vs the run on the season from Pro Football Focus, good for 13th among 4-3 outside linebackers (and we would assume his grade would've only gone up with more games played), and tops on the Bears defense. And even with missing seven games, Briggs is ninth in the NFL in 'stuffs' (tackling rusher for negative yards), with nine.
Additionally, if Briggs returns, that means the Bears can put overmatched rookie linebacker Khaseem Greene back on the second-string. With Briggs out, the Bears have been starting two struggling rookie linebackers in Greene at the weak side, and Jon Bostic in the middle.
So, while Briggs certainly isn't going to be a cure-all for the Bears' run-defense woes, his return should at least help things a bit in that department. And that's very important for this upcoming game especially, given LeSean McCoy and the Eagles' superb rushing attack.
In other Bears injury news, wide receiver Brandon Marshall (hamstring and quad) missed Wednesday's practice, but Trestman certainly doesn't sound worried about No. 15's status for Sunday:
Brandon Marshall did not practice today because of hamstring and quad injuries. “He’ll be fine,” Trestman said.Get the latest DBN updates by following us on Facebook & Twitter.
— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) December 18, 2013