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Colts/NFL

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Chicago
at Philadelphia
When: 8:30 p.m. Sunday
TV: NBC

Briggs on track to return Sunday

Bears optimistic after linebacker able to practice

– The Chicago Bears control their playoff destiny and their best defensive player appears to be on track to return this week.

That would be Lance Briggs.

The Bears remain optimistic he will be ready to play at Philadelphia after he practiced Wednesday on a limited basis.

The seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker is trying to work his way back from a small fracture in his left shoulder and help the Bears lock up a playoff spot that appeared to be slipping beyond their reach just a few weeks ago.

“We’ll see where he is,” coach Marc Trestman said. “It’s still day to day. Like I said to you the other day, I’m optimistic he’ll play. How much? 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 today and I did talk him afterwards, and he said he felt pretty good, so we’ll see where he is tomorrow.”

Briggs declined comment Wednesday.

The Bears held receiver Brandon Marshall out of practice because of soreness in his quadriceps and hamstring, but Trestman said he’ll practice today.

Briggs, meanwhile, looks like he’s on track to play against the Eagles, a major boost for a struggling defense.

The Bears lead the NFC North at 8-6, with Green Bay (7-6-1) and Detroit (7-7) trying to stay in the race. The division belongs to the Bears if they win their remaining games against the Eagles and Packers, and they could wrap it up this week with some help. A Bears victory plus a Lions loss or tie and a Green Bay loss would do the trick.

Getting Briggs back certainly wouldn’t hurt, although conditioning could be a factor given his long layoff and the Eagles’ fast tempo.

He hasn’t played since Oct. 20, when he was injured at Washington. The Bears initially thought he would miss about six weeks, but the recovery has taken longer.

Without him, the defense has suffered, particularly against the run, and the Bears are staring at the league’s leading rusher this week in LeSean McCoy.

“Lance probably, there might be a little rust there, a transitional period there, maybe in the first quarter or so but we all know what Lance is capable of doing,” Marshall said. “He’s a monster out there. I wouldn’t test Lance too much. His history says enough.”

But it would be understandable if the thought of facing the Bears made McCoy just a little giddy, even with Briggs back.

No team has had more trouble stopping the run than the Bears, and they weren’t exactly slamming the door before Briggs went down. They were performing better, though.

They went from giving up an average of 102 rushing yards in the six games prior to his injury to 152.4 for the season and dropped from 12th against the run to last. They’ve given up 198 or more five times in the past eight games and allowed just more than 190 on average during that span.

Now, here comes McCoy.

“I feel like I’m going to put this game on my back,” he said. “I really want to go out there and showcase what we can do offensively running the ball. I bet the guys up front, me and them together, can get this thing done.”

Note: The Bears agreed to a two-year contract with OT Joe Long. He was signed off the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad.

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