The Cowboys playing the Bears isn’t the most glamorous game on the week 14 schedule, as both teams have their issues. But with the game having serious playoff implications for both teams, it requires a closer look.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Few teams in the NFL need a win as badly as the Chicago Bears need a win. Chicago has lost two in a row on the road, and three of their last four, as their once promising playoff hopes have grown increasingly bleak. Last week’s overtime loss to Minnesota was like a dagger to their playoff hopes, as a wildcard spot is unlikely, which means they’ll have to win the NFC North in order to get to the postseason. Detroit lost on Sunday, and that opens the door for the Bears to make up some ground, which is essential considering the Lions own the tiebreaker between the two teams. As for the Cowboys, they have some hope to snag the second wildcard spot, but their main focus right now is beating out the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC East title. The Eagles won in a snowstorm on Sunday, so the Cowboys need to keep pace, even though the division could be decided when the two teams meet in week 17.
DALLAS OFFENSE VS. CHICAGO DEFENSE
Dallas has won their last two games, in part because they’ve made a commitment to running the ball, and have actually done so effectively. Any kind of consistent production from the running game takes pressure off Tony Romo and can make him all the more dangerous, considering the weapons he has at his disposal in the passing game. Chicago has the worst rush defense in the NFL, so as long as the Cowboys make it a point to run the ball, they should have success moving the ball on the ground, which should set up Dallas to use play-action and put a lot of pressure on the Chicago secondary. Unless the Bears can put pressure on Romo with their pass rush and force him into making mistakes, they could have trouble stopping the Dallas offense on a consistent basis.
CHICAGO OFFENSE VS. DALLAS DEFENSE
Josh McCown has done a fine job of filling in for Jay Cutler, but it hasn’t translated into wins for the Bears. Even with McCown, Chicago has one of the top passing attacks in the league with Brandon Marshall and the emergence of Alshon Jeffery, and they’ve received consistent production in the running game from Matt Forte, so the Bears should have success moving the ball and scoring points against a Dallas defense that’s ranked among the worst in the NFL. The Cowboys continue to deal with injuries to key defensive players, which should make it even more difficult for them to stop the Chicago offense, which has a handful of capable skill players that can take advantage of a porous secondary, especially if the Cowboys can’t put consistent pressure on McCown with their pass rush.
With both defenses being below average and both offenses having a wealth of skill players, it’s safe to assume that plenty of points will be scored in this game, and that both teams will have a chance to win in the 4th quarter, even if they face a double-digit deficit, as points could be scored in bunches and in a short period of time. The Bears will have the home-field advantage, as well as more of a sense of urgency to win, but they are struggling to win games, while the Cowboys have played better in recent weeks, showcasing more balance on offense. The Bears need this game more, but the Cowboys are the better team: Dallas 27, Chicago 20.