By staying in contention through the early part of the season without Dak Prescott, the Cowboys are now firmly in the mix for the top spot in the NFC, just behind their own division rivals in the undefeated Eagles and 6-1 Giants. Though it wasn’t with the style points that some fans were expecting, the Cowboys won in Prescott’s return against the Lions to set up another matchup with an NFC North opponent.
The 5-2 Cowboys will host the 3-4 Bears on Sunday, with Chicago winning on Monday Night Football at the Patriots this week. Similarly to the Lions game, this is yet another game the Cowboys can’t afford a setback in if they want to repeat as NFC East winners. They’ll have the advantage of another week of practice work with Prescott in the offense, but also a drastically improved defense from their past two meetings with the Bears.
The Cowboys have split with the Bears since 2016 under Prescott, giving up over 300 passing yards and two touchdowns to Brian Hoyer in a win at AT&T Stadium and 244 yards with three touchdowns to Mitch Trubisky in a loss at Solider Field.
Dallas has only allowed over 200 passing yards once this season, but will again see a different Bears quarterback in Justin Fields. Fields presents a similar challenge to the Cowboys defense as Jalen Hurts did with his ability to extend plays out of the pocket, as the Bears could put more pressure on the Cowboys offense to consistently move the ball compared to the two field goal drives the Lions managed last Sunday.
The Cowboys have bought in fully to defense being their identity at least for this season, but showed the signs of just how much room there is to grow on offense in week seven. Prescott was patient going through his reads, got tight end Dalton Schultz involved in his best game since week one, and threw his first touchdown of the season to Peyton Hendershot. Similar opportunities should be there against a Bears defense starting 2020 fifth-round pick Kindle Vildor and former second-round pick Jaylon Johnson at cornerback, though its the league high in rushing first downs allowed by the Bears that should entice Kellen Moore the most in this matchup.
Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard had one of their best complementary games of the season with the added threat from Prescott under center against the Lions, and the Cowboys have the defense to keep the Bears from jumping out to the 17-point lead they had in their last win against them. The Cowboys reversed fortune in their 2016 win versus the Bears, jumping out to a 17-0 lead on rushing touchdowns from Prescott and Lance Dunbar.
This week eight showdown has the feel of a game the Cowboys can use to prove their style of play this year is more sustainable, and take another step to earn the elite status they’ve been after despite a season-opening setback against the Buccaneers. The Bears have already lost to the Giants and Commanders, two teams the Cowboys beat with Cooper Rush, but first year head coach and former Cowboys staffer Matt Eberflus does have an upset win against the 49ers. In a rare second consecutive 1 PM ET kickoff for the Cowboys, the sense of urgency this team has played with shows they’re not in position to take any team lightly, including the Bears before yet another NFC North game at the Packers following a week nine bye.