Before the season started, the Chicago Bears were seen as a team on the rise by many. That has gone south in a hurry, with an 0-2 start, a boatload of injuries, and talk of them "contending" for the first overall pick in the 2017 draft.
Perhaps the most important question facing the Bears is "Who exactly will be playing for this team on Sunday night?"
Cutler wasn't the only starter to suffer an injury in Monday's 29-14 loss to the Eagles - and his wasn't the most serious. Pass rusher Lamarr Houston tore his ACL during the contest and is expected to miss the remainder of the season. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman was also carted off the field with a high ankle sprain, which is expected to sideline him for several weeks.
That doesn't include linebacker Danny Trevathan, who is expected to undergo surgery Wednesday after spraining his thumb in the game. Trevathan's injury isn't season-ending, but it seems like a good bet he won't be available by Sunday night.
With talented but highly erratic Jay Cutler out, the Bears are turning to Brian Hoyer at QB. It should be a plus for Dallas' chances, but we know all too well how often backups have lit it up against the Cowboys.
QB Brian Hoyer: Hoyer is the next man up following Jay Cutler's right thumb injury. The 30-year old passed for 2,606 yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions (nine starts) for Houston last year, but Hoyer is no longer a viable long-term starting quarterback. He completed 9-of-12 pass attempts for 78 yards in mop-up duty against Philadelphia. Hoyer will know the playbook Sunday night, but expectations are moderate.
The Dallas offensive line has had its struggles so far, but this might be a chance to up their game - if they don't take the surviving defensive line too lightly.
Luckily for the Cowboys offensive line two of the Bears best defensive linemen may not play. Goldman hasn't been ruled out yet but was carted off the field Monday night. Lamarr Houston had a MRI on his ACL today and it looks like Houston's season could be over according to Ian Rapoport. A couple guys the Dallas OLine must keep their eyes on is Willie Young and rookie Leonard Floyd. Young is one of the better pass rushers in the league and Floyd is a guy off the edge who plays with a ton of speed. Whoever veteran Doug Free does end up lining up across from he must be on his A game. This offensive line looked a lot better in week two but needs to carry that success over into week three.
The problems for Chicago so far this season extend to both sides of the ball, giving the Cowboys a good chance to win.
They'll have it this Sunday night, as the Bears enter the game having allowed 52 total points between their first two games (26 per), while only scoring a total of 28.
The Bears may be hurting, but they still have players that have to be accounted for. Bryan Broaddus looks at three that still could be problems for Dallas, including their top receiving threat, Alshon Jeffrey.
The No. 1 thing to know about Jeffery is his impressive physical makeup. He possesses a big frame and long arms - both of which can be intimating to a defensive back when he first encounters him. He looks big on tape but even bigger in person.
For a man his size, he can make all the catches. He will go high and low to grab a ball, and he has good hands to pluck the ball. Wide catch radius. Snatches screens and gets quickly up the field. Adjusts well to the ball in flight. Natural receiving skills.
Largely because of Cutler, the Cowboys are a unanimous pick to beat the Bears in this poll. Which makes me nervous.
One thing that is not good is that Dallas is playing at AT&T Stadium, which is the worst home field disadvantage in the league.
But eight straight home losses? Given the fact that the Cowboys are proud of AT&T Stadium as arguably the finest building of its kind on the planet, you can understand why the natives are restless about the lack of a statistical home-field advantage.
Since the 2009 opening of the building, the Cowboys are 27-30 at home
Because he always has something valuable to say, here is Bob Sturm's weekly look at the defense.
That isn't to say the Cowboys have a great defense. They don't. We all know it, and compared to league averages, the Cowboys must do better in nearly every category from what we've seen.
But we are seeing guys battle hard. We are seeing them push to make plays. And the only difference between Weeks 1 and 2 from a defensive standpoint -- the difference between winning and losing -- is that they were able to make a few plays in the fourth quarter and in the red zone.
The Cowboys are not dealing with nearly the number of injuries as the Bears, but one problem is that Orlando Scandrick is trying to play through the dreaded hamstring issue.
Scandrick fought through a nagging left hamstring injury last week against the Redskins, but now has developed a strained right hamstring as well.
It's likely Scandrick will be limited in practice for most of the week, but the fact he was wearing his pads and had his helmet suggest he could possibly get ready for Sunday night's game.
During the Washington game, with the defense again struggling to get to the quarterback, the staff made an in-game adjustment and movedback out to defensive end. He had not practiced at end coming into the game, but he was very pleased with the results.
. . . Crawford came out of the game much more fresh and physically unburdened than he normally might after 60 minutes as a 3-Tech.
"I feel like I get hit by a bus (playing inside)" Crawford told reporters. "And this time after the game, I feel like a friggin' butterfly.''
Crawford sacked quarterback Kirk Cousins for an 8-yard loss on Washington's final drive, transforming a second-and-two into a third-and-10. It was a great example of how this much-maligned D found success in key moments, in clutch situations, safety Barry Church's second-half interception in the end zone being another notable example.
While playing in the NFL has been something of a challenge tothe first two weeks of the season, that may be comparatively minor compared to facing the incredible spotlight that comes with playing in Dallas.
But nothing prepared Elliott for the crush of fans and media when he arrived in Dallas. This was "America's Team." Elliott was at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport earlier this summer with Rocky Arceneaux, one of two agents who represent him, when the attention got to be too much. Elliott retreated to a bathroom and put on a makeshift disguise -- some sunglasses and a hoodie over his head. It did not work.
"Man," Elliott told Arceneaux, "I think I want to start flying private all the time." Arceneaux laughed. "That comes with being a star playing for The Star," he told Elliott.
has struggled greatly for his entire time with the Cowboys, only starting to live up to his potential recently. In an interview on 105.3FM The Fan, he admits that he at times unsure it would ever work out.
"I had all type of doubts at one point. I even thought about ‘is football really for me?'. I had all types of doubts going through my head at one particular time. And I just kept praying...God just told me to stick with it, to keep working, to keep grinding and everything would work out for the best. I have my family with me, my family pushing me. And it all worked out."
Looks like a good thing he powered through it all.
Lowest DB burn rates (thru Week 2)— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) September 21, 2016
C Harris 46%
Sometimes, experience is key. And right now, the Cowboys are probably at least as glad as Justin Durant that he decided to give it one more shot.
"I've been in the league for a while, and the type of set they were in typically there's two maybe three routes in that situation, fourth-and-short, that they can run," Durant said. "They ran one of the ones I guessed on. Not guessed on but, you know, that I felt they were going to run."
Of course, Dak Prescott is still the biggest story for the Cowboys, and the more you read about him, the more you like him.
"I think you can even just bring it down just to the point of preparing, film study, the way to prepare, watching film, watching what they're going to give me and the different things they may give me, to just accuracy and footwork, everything," Prescott said. "But most importantly just the confidence that my teammates give me and the coaches just allow me to play free."
Speaking of Prescott, Peter King had this to say about him during an appearance on KTCK 1310 The Ticket.
It just struck me very much that when I watch him play, you just see a very, very confident person. It's funny: In training camp, I saw him one day and I basically didn't have a conversation with him or anything but just saw how he handled himself. You see a guy: The book on him coming out of Mississippi State is he's the mayor of Starkville. He's an extremely well-regarded, well-respected kid in that town and that's the guy who the Cowboys drafted. He's shown that and basically he's shown the ability right now to complete throws downfield and to be able to read the whole field - that's one of the strengths right now of a bunch of these young quarterbacks.