Carson Wentz got off to a hot start by picking apart Cleveland in his debut as the Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback. The degree of difficulty is about to take a sharp tick upward when he travels to Chicago for a Monday Night Football showdown with the Bears.
Wentz ascended to the Eagles' starting spot after the team traded away 2015 incumbent Sam Bradford. Though it looked like a rib injury could slow him down, he picked apart an inexperienced Browns defense en route to a promising 278-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 29-10 victory. He established an immediate rapport with third-year receiver Jordan Matthews, who had seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown against the cavalcade of athletic-looking men Cleveland assured us were NFL cornerbacks.
Chicago will provide a much stiffer test for the young passer, though the Bears aren't the fierce Midway Monsters of years past. Brock Osweiler threw for 235 yards and two touchdowns in an efficient performance to lead the Texans over the Bears 23-14 in Week 1. The young passer's above-average performance suggests Wentz could be similarly successful on Monday, but a look at rookies over the past four years shows first-year quarterbacks have typically regressed in their second starts.
Passers like Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr all took steps back in the second games of their career. A few big names, like Jameis Winston, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Andy Dalton, all improved the week after their debuts, though. If Wentz can protect the ball and carve up the Bears' defense, he'll join some esteemed company among rising NFL quarterbacks.
Chicago has its own offensive questions to answer. The Bears' cheesecloth offensive line kept Jay Cutler from getting comfortable in the pocket in last week's loss to Houston, and the Texans sacked the veteran quarterback five times. The Eagles will be similarly relentless with their pass rush, and Cutler no longer has reliable safety outlet options like Matt Forte or Martellus Bennett to dump the ball to as defensive ends bear down on him. Chicago gained just 258 yards in Week 1. Only three teams (Miami, Los Angeles and Buffalo) were worse.
In order to win on Monday, Bears coach John Fox will have to exorcise his demons against the Eagles. The veteran sideline presence is just 1-4 against Philadelphia, with most of those defeats coming as a member of the Carolina Panthers. The odds are in his favor; Chicago is a three-point favorite to derail Wentz's early rookie returns and earn its first victory of the 2016 season.
The Bears will be hoping for an offensive renaissance against an Eagles team hardly tested by the Browns last week. Philadelphia will hope their young quarterback takes the next step forward and joins some elite company among young quarterbacks. You can catch this game online using ESPN's live streaming website. Verizon customers can also access the game on mobile devices via the NFL's official app.
How to watch Philadelphia Eagles vs. Chicago Bears
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: Soldier Field, Chicago
Announcers: Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters
Online Streaming: WatchESPN
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