The 7-1 Bears face the 7-1 Texans in prime time game this Sunday at Soldier Field. Could it get any better? This game has all the makings of an instant classic.
For the Bears it’s a common formula – it’s all about the defense. They’re leading the league in takeaways and are only a few touchdowns behind the Jacksonville Jaguars offense with 8 touchdowns. Peanut Tillman is having an MVP-caliber season while Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher just keep doing what they do at a high level. The offense remains in work in progress as Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall look to set Bears passing and receiving single-season records.
For the Texans, JJ Watt is an MVP candidate in his own right while making people forget Mario Williams. The Texans defense is dominating most categories while the offense goes as running back Arian Foster goes.
How do the Bears pull off a victory over the tough Texans squad? Here are my Keys to a Chicago Bears Victory.
Something’s Gotta Give
The Bears lead the league in taking the ball away, with 28 takeaways through their first 8 games. Meanwhile, the Texans protect the ball better than any other team in the league with only 6 giveaways through their first 8 games. It’s strength against strength and something’s gotta give. If the Bears want to continue their winning ways, it seems like they need to get the ball out of Houston’s stingy hands. Whichever team wins the turnover battle will win the game.
Texans DE JJ Watt is a one-man wrecking crew. If he’s not sacking the quarterback with his league-leading 10.5 sacks, he’s swatting the ball down. To get a sense for how impressive he is at knocking the ball down, consider that he’s got 10 passes defended. That’s just 5 behind league leader Tim Jennings, who’s got 15 as a defensive back.
The offensive line for the Bears is still a work in progress, so this shapes up as a rough matchup for the Bears. If JJ Watt dominates J’Marcus Webb and becomes J’Watt Nation, Jay Cutler and the Bears could be in for a long night. The Bears can’t let Watt beat them. Whether it’s double teaming him or getting Cutler on the move with some quick-hitting passes
Foster the Running Back
See what I did with this one? I took the band Foster the People for Arian Foster, the dominant Texans running back. The Texans go as Foster goes. He’s only 5th in the league with 770 rushing yards, but he’s got 10 TD’s through 8 games. Meanwhile the Bears are 6th in the league against the run and those stats might be inflated when they allowed a ton of yardage and a long TD run to Titans RB Chris Johnson in garbage time last week.
The Bears need to shut Foster down to slow the Texans attack. The defensive line for the Bears has been terrific this season, but they haven’t faced an offensive line quite like the Texans. Houston head coach Gary Kubiak has adapted the zone blocking scheme that Mike Shanahan used to run in Denver. I seem to recall the Bears have struggled against that blocking scheme.
I thought we had sort of debunked the myth that Jay Cutler struggles in night games with solid outings earlier this season vs Dallas and Detroit this season and two Bears wins to boot. But then I dug into Cutler’s stats on Sunday Night Football and they don’t look good. Cutty has a 2-6 record on SNF in his career. He’s mustered 12 TD’s to go with 14 interceptions.
The Texans have promised that they’re going to double Brandon Marshall all day, so with Cutler’s history of Sunday Night picks, this could spell disaster. The Bears’ offense has been struggling this season to begin with, so Cutler needs to get things figured out in a hurry. Protect the ball and have a Plan B outside of Brandon Marshall. I’d like to see Earl Bennett get involved early and while the Texans stop the run with the best of them, I’d like to see Matt Forte get a share of touches on the ground and in the short passing game.
What do you think? What do the Bears need to do to win this game?