There’s no rest for the weary as the Dallas Cowboys visit Chicago to take on the 6-6 Bears on Thursday night in what will be the third game in twelve days for Dallas. Over their history, these two teams have met 26 times with Dallas coming out on top in 15 of those games. Dallas comes into the game on a two-game winning streak against the Bears dating back to 2014.
However, in 2019, it feels important for the Cowboys to continue that streak – and break their current two-game slide – seeing as how they need a victory to put some distance between themselves and the Eagles as they look to repeat as NFC East champions. Despite back-to-back losses, the Cowboys are still in full control of their postseason destiny even at 6-6.
A win against another NFC team would go a long way towards helping the Cowboys right the ship as we head into the home stretch of the 2019 season. Here’s a look at how Dallas can put an end to the losing streak and keep Philadelphia at bay with a win in Chicago:
Heroics from the Special Teams:
There is no question that the Dallas Cowboys have been one of the worst special teams units across the board in the NFL in 2019. From their placekicker having one of the worst field goal percentages in the league, to mediocre-at-best punting, to the fact that the Cowboys are also dead last in kick return avg while bleeding yards in kick coverage, it’s been ugly.
It’s safe to say that Dallas needs this to change and it needs to start on Thursday night in Chicago.
There has been no kick returner this season better than the Bears’ Cordarrelle Patterson. The former Tennessee Volunteer leads the league in overall yards and yards per kick return. The Bears have a struggling offense that ranks in the bottom five of the NFL. Patterson can help a stagnant group by getting them in favorable situations with his returns so the Cowboys’ special teams unit led by Keith O’Quinn better figure it out with a quickness.
Make Bears defense hibernate:
Not only are the Cowboys facing an elite returner but they also have to square off against a top-five scoring defense. The Bears have talent all across the field on defense with Khalil Mack leading the way.
The Cowboys offensive line needs to find a way to neutralize both Mack and Nick Williams on the rush. One red flag on that front is the team will be playing Xavier Su’a-Filo at guard in place of Connor Williams who was placed on injured reserve following an ACL tear against Buffalo.
Dallas ran into issues when Su’a-Filo entered the game on Thanksgiving in place of Williams so the Bears will likely be eager to attack that weakness. La’el Collins will be tasked with trying to keep Mack in check. Overall, Dallas has allowed the fewest sacks in the league.
The Cowboys top-rated passing attack will be matched up against a stingy Bears' defense, which is ranked fifth in fewest touchdowns given up through the air and ninth in yards allowed. The Bears also allow the fourth-fewest points per drive (1.50) while the Cowboys score the fourth-most points per drive (2.38) in the NFL.
Dallas might opt to try to run against the Bears but Chicago allows the ninth fewest yards per game on the ground. That could mean that Dallas will be counting on a couple of receivers inching closer to milestones that will be looking to have big days.
Despite Chicago coming in with the same .500 record as them, this is a big test for the Cowboys as they will be going up against a stout defense and need to show that they can match up. Should Dallas make the postseason, they could face the likes of the San Francisco 49ers, who sport an even better defense than the already tough Bears. Thursday looks like a solid audition for the Cowboys.
Force Trubisky’s hand:
The Cowboys need to get after Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky on Thursday and stay on him. With a top tier defense set to try to disrupt Dak Prescott and gang, the Dallas defense needs to give the offense any advantage possible by limiting what Chicago can do on offense. That all starts with the pass rush.
The Cowboys have struggled in coverage at times and the pass rush finding ways to get home can limit their exposure. When in coverage, the Dallas secondary needs to look for the ball and put an end to their four-game streak without a takeaway as Trubisky will give them opportunities.
In their last game against the Buffalo Bills, the Cowboys’ pass rush was all but non-existent giving Josh Allen all the time he needed to make timely passes in route to a 26-15 victory over Dallas. The Cowboys can’t allow Trubisky to have the same level of comfort from inside the pocket.
If the Dallas edge rushers can’t put on the pressure then the line will need to win from the inside or defensive play-caller Kris Richard will have to dial up the blitz to hurry the third-year quarterback. In his 11 games in 2019, the former Tar Heel first-round pick has been sacked 26 times. When there is an opportunity, the pass rushers need to seize it and limit an already struggling Chicago offense.
These two 6-6 clubs are playing for different things this coming Thursday. The Cowboys are trying to capitalize on a weak division and eventually punch their ticket for a home playoff game berth. To get there, Dallas doesn’t even have to win this one. Meanwhile, the Bears are desperately holding onto a small glimmer of hope to get back into the Wild Card chase.
One team has a struggling offense and a top-notch defense and special teams while the other has the league’s best passing attack with the other two units lagging behind.
For this game, it just feels like with the deck is stacked against the Cowboys with all of the sense of desperation firmly with the home team. The Dallas offense couldn’t get it done in rough conditions against a tough New England defense and it’s forecasted to be a chilly affair at Soldier Field for the Cowboys on Thursday night with the Bears' defense looking battle-tested.
For the Cowboys to have a chance, they need to do better than the NFL’s 17th ranked red zone offense. Dallas can survive even with a loss and still be out in front to win the division. I see them failing another NFC test 24-21.
Do you think the Cowboys will be able to go up to Chicago and come away with a win to start December on the right foot? Share your predictions with Patrick on Twitter @DraftCowboys.