After a great day of football, it gets topped off with a marquee match up and potential Superbowl preview featuring the Houston Texans travelling to Solider Field to take on the Chicago Bears. There has been much talk all week debating the two (7-1) teams. Both teams feature Pro Bowlers on both sides of the ball, as well as emerging talent all over the field.
The Bears have showing signs of their old “Monsters of the Midway” self and are one of the most opportunistic defenses in NFL history. They are leading the league in takeaways, and 7 of them have been taken for touchdowns! The Texans must be careful on offense and protect the ball.
The presence of Brandon Marshall has given Jay Cutler that play maker at receiver that he hasn’t had in his tenure in Chicago. There passing game has been a tad one dimensional, with Marshall having more catches then all of the other receivers combined. Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has said all week that he plans on double teaming Marshall, and making one of the other receivers step up and beat them. I expect Houston to play hard man on Marshall with a safety lurking over top for help on all situations. Cutler will have to be careful and not try to force any throws in, but be aggressive when he has single coverage to take a shot.
Both teams feature a solid running game with Pro Bowlers Matt Forte and Arian Foster being the featured backs for both squads. Both teams like to impose their will with the run, and mix in their passing to take advantage of the different looks. Houston is more reliant on the run as their play action passing attack is only successful when it’s effective. Quarterback Matt Schaub is good, but if he has to drop back and throw 40-50 times into the teeth of the Bears defense, it’s going to be a long day for Houston.
So, which defense is likely to impose their will? I say both of them. The Bears offensive line is shaky, and Houston features one of the best front seven in the league. Enter J.J. Watt. The second year end rusher is leading the league in sacks, and will introduce himself to Cutler a couple times tonight.
If you break down the stats, this game is a mirror image of itself. Both teams are great on both sides of the ball – both teams got beaten by an angry Green Bay team – and both teams haven’t had that signature win yet.
In a game where all the public is saying that this is Chicago’s game to separate itself in a crowded NFC, I expect them to come out gunning to make a statement. Houston, who is almost a lock to win the AFC South, has this as its signature game remaining.
So who wins? Here’s what I see. The Houston pass rush is going to pressure Jay Cutler and force him into some bad decisions. Houston will run the ball just enough to open up the passing game in which Schaub will find the end zone. Don’t expect a lot of points to be scored, but expect a tough, heavy hitting battle that will be one of the epic games of the season and will say a lot about both teams going forward.
My prediction: Houston 24 – 21
Fantasy studs – Arian Foston, Michael Bush, Robbie Gould, Shayne Graham
Start, but be careful: Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, Andre Johnson
Limited in practice, but must start if he’s good – Owen Daniels