The 6-6 Dallas Cowboys travel to “The Windy City” to take on the 6-6 Chicago Bears on Thursday Night Football. Both of the NFC contenders from last season are underachieving this season. The only difference is that the Cowboys are still in sole possession of first place in the division while the Bears are barely in the wildcard hunt. Which team will have what it takes to put their mistakes behind them and make a push in the final quarter of the season?
When the Bears have the ball
Attack the poor pass protection
Looking for a reason as to why the Bears have struggled offensively, look no further than the pressure they have allowed on QB Mitch Trubisky. Chicago’s offensive line is 28th in sack percentage, allowing a sack on 7.2% of passing plays, 33 sacks total given up (ninth-most in NFL). The Cowboys have been decent at creating pressure this season, they have 32 sacks on the year (11th in NFL). The Cowboys also have a pressure percentage of 27%, that’s Top-10 in the NFL. They should be able to put pressure on this porous Chicago pass protection but they need to demand more of their defensive tackles.
Trubisky hasn’t had a great season but he does have athleticism and the Cowboys seem ill-equipped to keep the opposing passer in the pocket. They have struggled several times this season to stop guys like Jeff Driskel, Josh Allen, and others. Dallas has got above-average production from their defensive ends but now it’s time for these tackles to step up and collapse the pocket. Make Trubisky uncomfortable by closing the pocket around him and making the tackle for crying out loud, that’s the path to a win.
When the Cowboys have the ball
Protect the football, close out possessions
The Cowboys have one of the most lethal offenses in the league but they have a propensity for self-inflicted wounds and that’s killed them above all else. The Cowboys are -4 in the turnover battle, which is 22nd in the NFL. In the first six games, the Cowboys committed nine turnovers but now they have seven in the last five games. The Cowboys can’t win games if they keep giving the ball away. Dak Prescott has been amazing this season but he has got to stop pressing and throwing those easy picks. The Cowboys have only won one game where they lost the turnover battle, their game against the Lions. They have five of six losses that all have losing the turnover battle as a common denominator.
The Bears have a legitimate Top-10 defense and that’s another area the Cowboys have yet to conquer. When they play top defenses, they put up plenty of yards but they do not close out games. Chicago is +3 in the takeaway category, that’s 10th in the NFL and that’s scary for the Dallas Cowboys. Stop making the mistakes that get you beat, Cowboys.
Now, let’s look at what the writers think about this one...
Cowboys 23, Bears 17. Despite the cold weather and playing against a talented defense, Dak Prescott gets back on track. Zeke finds the end zone. The defense causes one turnover.
The Bears have a similar roster construction to that of the Bills - meaning a great defense and an offense that gets the job done - and the weather conditions are giving me flashbacks to the Patriots game. Dallas will struggle to move the ball and make Mitch Trubisky look like the second coming of Jim McMahon. Chicago wins 24-21
It’s going to be hard to get the offense back on track with a tough road game against a strong Bears defense, so this one could end up being a low scoring affair. With the Bears being inept on offense, the Cowboys defense should look pretty good as well. We know the Cowboys are capable of laying into this Bears team, but my confidence is shaken. I’m leaning towards the home team on this one. Bears 15, Cowboys 13.
The Cowboys are going to have to prove me wrong in my pessimism, but I think they find a way to lose this one. The Bears have a good defense, the Dallas special teams will probably continue to be horrifying, the defense will have its usual bad plays and make Mitch Trubisky look legit, and there will be just enough offensive miscues to saddle them with another loss. Plus it is going to be a bit cold in an outdoors stadium, which is not the Cowboys’ jam. Chicago wins 24-17.
I’m going to side with my podcast partner, Tom Ryle. In year’s past, I believe the Cowboys fought for Jason Garrett and we’ve seen them make comebacks before. However, I don’t see that happening here, the Cowboys don’t seem to have much fight left, especially defensively. In this game, on the road, in chilly Chicago, the Cowboys will break your hearts all over again. The Cowboys will not get out of their own way and the Bears will do just enough to win 21-17. The clock is ticking rapidly on the Jason Garrett-era.