It seems like every week around Thursday or Friday, the thought pops through my head, "It might be crazy, but I could see this happening in this week's game." So this week I decided to pose the question to my fellow BTB staffers in the virtual writers lounge, what would be their Bold Predictions for this week?
Mine: Bruce Carter breaks out of his slump with a pick 6.
Chicago's offense is based largely on throwing inside breaking routes (slants, digs, crossers). This puts an onus on the players in the middle of the field to be ready to break on the ball and make big plays. We've seen Sean Lee do this extremely well against the Lions resulting in an interception and big return. However, this week it's Carter's turn. He'll step in front of Alshon Jeffery or Brandon Marshall, pick the ball off, and take it to the house, which serves as the kick start to a 4 (or more) game run of domination by the Cowboys line backing corps.
Dave Halprin: DeMarco Murray will have over 200 yards total offense.
The Bears run defense is miserable, getting 100 yards on the ground should be an easily attainable goal. Especially if the weather is bad and the Cowboys turn to the ground game. But Murray will also shine in the passing game. The Bears linebackers are not the best group, they will have trouble covering Murray. They also blitz a lot leaving hot-reads to Murray out of the backfield as an ideal option. Add it all together for 200+ yards from DeMarco Murray.
Rabblerousr: The two teams will combine for six or more turnovers.
Both defenses have done a good job this season forcing turnovers. The Cowboys are fourth in the league with 25; the Bears are tied for seventh with 23 after leading the NFL in 2012. After an early flurry of takeaways (each team enjoyed an early-season victory in which it generated five or more TOs: Chicago had five takeaways in its 40-23 week three win at Pittsburgh), both squads have trailed off a bit. However, this game, likely to be played in challenging conditions, is where one or both teams return to early-season form and has a good night taking the ball away. And whoever wins the TO battle almost certainly wins the game; the teams are collectively 10-2 on the year when enjoying a positive turnover margin.
Dawn Macelli: Jason Hatcher will have a game to remember.
Back-up quarterback Josh McCown will be the Bears starter on Monday night. Unlike Cutler, McCown is more of a "get the ball out quickly" passer. For the Cowboys, that means that if they are going to get pressure on the quarterback, it is going to come primarily from the inside rusher, Jason Hatcher. Look for Dallas to line up with Hatch facing off against Matt Slauson, who struggles to handle opponents who get off of the ball quickly. That is a battle that he should win more often than not.
Tom Ryle: Gavin Escobar breaks out
The weather and field conditions limit any kind of deep or long passing game, but Tony Romo is able to exploit the middle of the field effectively with short, quick passes. Jason Witten gets off to a good start, and the Bears start doubling him, plus they are sticking to DeMarco Murray like glue when he tries to come out of the backfield, so Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan counter with the 12 set. James Hanna does well with three catches, but Gavin Escobar becomes the star of the game, catching seven passes for 88 yards, but most importantly, two touchdowns. His big plus is the ability to go up over the defenders and bring the ball down, and it becomes largely a game of pitch and catch for him and Romo.
KD Drummond: Dallas' defense holds Chicago under 325 total yards
I'd figure I'd go here since I've been the one railing about how unimportant yards are in the grand scheme of things, which I truly do believe. But my bold prediction is that not only will Dallas keep the Bears point total down, they will shut down (relatively) the potent Bears offense. How? Magic.
OCC: The Cowboys are going to beat the Chicago defense with play-action.
I think the Cowboys are looking hard at the New York game as a template for how to play in the cold weather. And the thing that stood out from that game was the use of play-action passes. Bob Sturm noted that "the Cowboys unleashed 15 different play-action pass plays against the Giants on Sunday, after running only 37 play-action pass plays in the first 10 weeks of the season." The Bears have been burned so badly on the ground over the last six games (giving up an average of 205 yards on the ground per game over that span), they are going to sell out to stop the run. If the Cowboys can play-action the Bears' depleted linebackers corps to bite on the play action, they're going to find endless space up the middle.
Per PFF, only 12.2% of Romo's passes are out of play-action so far this season, the third-lowest value in the league. Yet when he does pass out of play-action, he has a QB rating of 119.5, the fourth best value in the league.
Note: After being chastised by the Boss (Dave) for wimping out on the whole Bold part of this bold prediction game, OCC made a second submission. (Only the boss would dare challenge the GOOG).
OCC (again): Beasley goes off for over 100 yards receiving.
The Cowboys use a lot of play-action to clean out the middle of the field, and Slot-Meister Beasley™ takes full advantage.
So let us know your bold predictions for Monday night.... Who excels, who struggles? What quirky unlikely event takes place that will have everyone talking?
Special Note: To honor a self imposed obligation, I must acknowledge, in this forum, the week 12 beat down that was handed to my fantasy team "Romo's Burden" by KD's #Vastarrayofweaponry....