DALLAS vs. CHICAGO
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m., Soldier Field
TV: 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Radio: 105.3 The Fan
Records: Dallas 7-5, Chicago 6-6
Series: Dallas leads, 13-10
Last meeting: Chicago, 34-18 (2012, in Dallas)
Betting line: Chicago -1
Weather: 26 degrees, 10% chance of rain
Two wins in a row means the Cowboys have a winning streak! After beginning the season 3-0, the Bears have lost six of nine games including their last two. With Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs out, this could be the ideal time for Dallas to go to Chicago and steal a victory. Let’s see how these two teams match up:
Dallas offense vs. Chicago defense
Tony Romo has righted the ship the last two weeks, which include a game-winning drive against the Giants and a comeback victory against the Raiders. In his last two games, Romo has completed at least 60% of his passes (71.9% against Oakland), and thrown three touchdowns while only yielding one interception.
Against Oakland, Lance Dunbar had his coming out party, but unfortunately there was little time to celebrate as he injured his knee in the fourth quarter and is out for the season. Heading into December, Dunbar would’ve been a great complimentary running back to DeMarco Murray’s power game, but now it will be up to Joseph Randle and Phillip Tanner (123 yards on 54 carries combined) moving forward.
The Bears’ defense has given up 29 more points this season than Dallas, including three losses where they allowed 40 or more points to Detriot (40), Washington (45) and St. Louis (42). In last week’s loss to Minnesota, the Bears allowed 496 yards of offense. The Vikings had a balanced attack with 250 yards passing and 246 yards rushing.
Dallas should be able to move the ball on offense and score against a defense ranked 14th in passing defense and 32nd in rushing defense.
Dallas defense vs. Chicago offense
Josh McCown is quietly in the top 10 of the league in QB rating (7th, one spot ahead of Romo), and has thrown nine touchdowns and one interception on the season. In last week’s loss, McCown threw for 355 yards and two touchdowns.
While the passing game is sixth in the NFL, the rushing offense is 19th with Matt Forte just 29 yards shy of his fourth 1,000-yard season.
Dallas is still last in the league in total yards allowed (421.6 per game), but in their last two games, the ‘Boys are only allowing 330.5 yards a game. The additions of DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher have helped immensely and now they get back Sean Lee this week.
As it usually is with this Cowboys’ defense, turnovers will be key if they want to stop an offense that hasn’t scored more than 21 points since a 45-41 loss to Washington (Week 7).
Chicago wide receivers vs. Dallas secondary: Former Cowboys’ practice squad player Andre Holmes had a career game against Dallas last week as he had seven catches for 136 yards. The Bears’ Alshon Jeffrey had 12 catches for 249 yards and two touchdowns.
The Dallas secondary has been hit or miss with a mediocre Brandon Carr, good Orlando Scandrick and a lost Morris Claiborne. Jeffrey, Brandon Marshall and former Cowboy Martellus Bennett will keep them busy all day long.
Terrance Williams had the biggest gaffe of the game last week as he fumbled the opening kickoff, which allowed Oakland to return it for a touchdown. Dallas had to play catch-up the rest of the half before finally taking the lead in the third quarter. The absence of Dwayne Harris looms large over the special teams unit, but there’s hope that he will return soon.
Dan Bailey made his 12th consecutive field goal last week. He hasn’t missed since Week 4 against San Diego.
Veteran kicker Robbie Gould has only missed three field goals this season for Chicago, but two of them were in last week’s three-point loss to the Vikings.
Devin Hester has a punt return for a touchdown this season, which was the 18th return TD of his career. At 31, he is still a threat to take it to the house any chance he gets.
The Cowboys are winners of two straight while the Bears are losers of two straight. Chicago plays better at home (4-2), but is catching Dallas at the wrong time, as the Cowboys are getting healthier on defense. The return of Sean Lee will be a huge factor in this game.
Did You Know?
The last time Dallas played at Soldier Field, they won 34-10 in 2007. Romo threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns while Marion Barber added 102 yards and a touchdown. At halftime, the score was 3-3, but Dallas scored 14 points in the third quarter and added 17 in the fourth.
The More You Know…
Prediction: Dallas 21, Chicago 17
Eddie Middlebrook is the co-host of “Chin Music” and VP of Media for ShutDowninning. He can be reached at Eddie.Middlebrook@ShutDowninning.com or on Twitter @emiddlebrook