DALLAS (105.3 THE FAN) — After sneaking past the Raiders on Thanksgiving Day, the Cowboys are now 7-5 and tied with the Eagles for the NFC East lead. As the calendar turns to December, we’re reminded of last year’s collapse.
An overtime loss to the Saints in Week 16, followed by a 10 point loss in Washington. The same thing happened in 2011, except the Cowboys went 1-4 to close out the regular season, most notably with a 13 points loss to Philly and a 17 point loss to the Giants in Week 17.
Enough of the past though, let’s focus on this week against the 6-6 Chicago Bears.
DALLAS (7-5) @ CHICAGO (6-6) on Monday Night Football
The Cowboys Running Game
The Cowboys finding a way to get their running game going is really intriguing to me. I’m a really big believer that you can win without a running game. I just don’t think it’s essential in this day and age. The way to win is by scoring touchdowns. That sounds simple, but you do that by taking advantage of match ups on the other side. I think “maintaining balance” is something that’s just been beaten into our head over the last 20 years by former athletes who are television analysts. All of that being said, the Chicago Bears run defense is terrible. They’ve given up 15 runs of 20 or more yards (including 3 against Minnesota on Sunday), and 3 runs of 40 or more yards, not to mention allowing 15 touchdown runs so far this season, for an average of 153 rushing yards allowed per game. Yikes!
Chicago’s Offensive Weapons
On the offensive side they have a lot of weapons, beginning with tall wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Matt Forte is 7th in the league in yards rushing and has been a model of consistency in the red zone with 7 rushing touchdowns. Even though Jay Cutler and Josh McCown have only been sacked 17 times this season (compared to Romo’s 28), the Chicago offensive line is not a good pass blocking squad. We are sometimes fooled by looking at stats, when in truth they are kind of a flukey stat. While the sack numbers are pretty low compared to the rest of the league, the rate of pressures they allow is about 40% of all drop backs according to profootballfocus.com. That basically means that Cutler and McCown are extremely conscious of the fact that they have to get rid of the ball quick because their line just can’t take care of them.
Road vs Home
The weapons are there to torch the Cowboys defense, while the Cowboys should be able to build off their strong running effort against the Raiders against a team that’s equally as crappy stopping the run. The fact that this game is in Chicago at Soldier Field really bothers me though. I love that the Cowboys have 3 extra days to rest and sit on this game, while the Bears are coming off a devastating loss in Minnesota. But the Cowboys are just not the same team on the road compared to at home.
At home this season the Cowboys have averaged 34 points per game. On the road however, they’re averaging just 20.3 points per game. I can’t help but feel that this is a game plan issue. I feel like the Cowboys just aren’t comfortable on the road, and Garrett’s way of thinking is just to keep it close. As I type that, I want to backtrack, because there are home games in which this same conservative approach eats up 2 or 3 offensive possessions.
I hate to say it, but it’s what I believe. The Bears are a team who will be just as desperate, if not more desperate than Dallas. They are 4-2 at Soldier Field so far this season, with their only losses coming at the hands of the Saints and Lions.
So now for my prediction…
I think the Bears win this one. The Cowboys aren’t the same team on the road and Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey can give the Cowboys secondary a ton of problems. I think it’ll be a close one, but I think ultimately the Bears offense has too many weapons for the Cowboys to handle. I also think the Lance Dunbar injury could prove to be huge against a bad rush defense. Joseph Randle lacks the explosiveness that Dunbar provides, and when spelling DeMarco Murray, I think we’ll see that the lack of Lance Dunbar will hurt this team.
Bears 27, Cowboys 23
Kevin Turner is the producer of the Ben and Skin show, heard Monday-Friday 2-6PM on 105.3 The Fan. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @ktfuntweets. Kevin wants you to know that he loves you.
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