Chicago! City of Broad Shoulders! The Big Pretty Cold! The Windy Has Stormy Eyes City!
This is an important game, and it’s a winnable one. Hopefully the ‘Boys can outlast the Eagles, but if not, this one’s got wild card implications—since N’awlins and Carolina are both in the South, there, presumably, goes one Wild Card, but San Francisco, Arizona, Chicago and next weeks’ opponent Green Bay are the ‘Boys biggest rivals for that second one. It’s 49ers 8-4, ‘Boys 7-5, Arizona 7-5, Chicago 6-6, Green Bay 5-6.
Jay Cutler won’t play on Sunday. It weirdly doesn’t matter that much. In basically eight games, Cutler threw for 1,908 yards, with a 63% completion percentage, 13 TDs and 8 INTs for a QB rating of 88.4. Josh McCown—for now, known around the Thanksgiving table as “The good McCown”—has, in five-and-a-half games, thrown for 1,461, with a completion percentage of 65.2%, 9 TDs, and only 1 INT, for a QB rating of 103.6.
So not much of a step down at the QB position, which is too bad because they have TWO GIGANTIC RECEIVERS in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey that the Cowboys more or less certainly can’t cover. It’s also bad news that the Bears’ weakness is rushing yards. We can talk about how the Cowboys don’t go to a rushing game often enough, and there’s some truth to that. DeMarco’s 4.9 yards per attempt is not only 4th in the league, it’s first among running backs (he’s behind Russell Wilson, RGII, and Cam Newton). So they should run.
But are they going to? I mean, are they smart enough? And would that even actually be smart? Murray isn’t exactly durable, the Cowboys’ offensive weapons are mostly on the chuckin’ it side of the bar, the Bears are right in the middle of the pack when it comes to pass defense, Lance Dunbar is out…hard to know.
The good news for the Cowboys is that the Bears’ wins, against Cincy, Minny, Pittsburgh, NYG, Green Bay and Baltimore (in OT), have not been impressive, while they’re coming off losses to St. Louis and Minny that have to raise some eyebrows. Whereas it’s been 3 weeks since the Cowboys’ last complete disaster, the Saints game, in which I’m pretty sure I saw a goat pick up the football and rush through the Cowboys’ secondary.
The bad news is TWO GIGANTIC RECEIVERS. It’s not exactly implausible that these two guys combined will better Calvin Johnson’s 9 million-yard receiving day, which would pretty much mean a Cowboys loss. And here’s how the rest of the season breaks down. The Cowboys will either be competing with the Eagles for the NFC East crown, or with the 49ers, Bears, Packers and Cards for the second Wildcard spot. The Cowboys play three of those five teams in their last four games.
Best-case scenario, they put themselves in a position to claim the NFC East title, since it’s not altogether likely they’ll hop ahead of the 49ers. But if they don’t, this game and the next one will give them the opportunity to be a couple of 49ers screw-ups away from the second Wildcard spot. Since the 49ers play the Seahawks again this weekend, who are basically playing a different kind of football than anyone else, and who beat ‘em, last time, 29-3, it’s at least reasonably possible for both teams to wake up Tuesday with an 8-5 record.
Have to take care of business, though.