The Dallas Cowboys are playing their final game before heading into their bye week as they host the Chicago Bears on Sunday. This will be the second of four-straight NFC North games. These first two are the “easy ones” as they are at home against the two worst teams in the division a year ago. After the bye, they’ll finish it off with two road games against the tougher teams from a year ago, Green Bay and Minnesota.
But to enter the bye on a winning note, they must get past a Bears team that is coming off a huge Monday night road win against New England. Former Cowboys linebacker coach and new Bears head coach Matt Eberflus has his team playing well, especially on the defensive side of the ball. This could be a lot tougher than some are expecting. Here are five things to keep an eye on when the Cowboys face the Bears this week.
1. Playing the Fields
Second-year quarterback Justin Fields is an elusive player. He has the most rushing yards of any quarterback not named Lamar Jackson so far this year. We all know that at any moment he can take off and come away with a big run.
But the rushing production isn’t the only weapon from his mobility. Fields loves to roll out and find his receivers near the sideline. The Cowboys' defense must do a good job containing the outside and not allow him to have clean throwing lanes to operate outside the hash marks. The Bears receivers do an excellent job on comeback routes and just sit along the sideline waiting for that rollout from Fields.
2. Caution against the big play
It’s hard imagining the Bears' offense doing a whole lot against this dominant Cowboys defense. There should be a fair share of negative plays as the overly aggressive defense comes after Fields.
However, this over-aggressiveness can get the defense in trouble sometimes if opponents can get beyond the initial surge. The quickness of Fields and some well-schemed running plays can offer up some big-play ability if they can get loose in space. This could be one of those games where the Cowboys' defense wreaks havoc for a great majority of the game but then gives way to a couple of explosive plays.
3. Disciplined Dak
We are all waiting for Dak Prescott to be unleashed and have one of those amazing 400-yard games. Those are certainly good times and it would be a sight for sore eyes to see that this offense still has the ability to have one of those big-scoring games. But this might not be the opponent for Dak to cut loose.
The Bears have a pretty talented secondary and this group is good at creating turnovers. Currently, the Chicago defense is top five in takeaways. The Bears have given up the third-fewest passing yards and have the third-most interceptions. With the two-time Pro Bowl veteran safety Eddie Jackson combined with a couple of second-round rookies DBs Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon, this Bears secondary won’t let you get away with many mistakes.
4. Malik gets his shot
It does not look like Ezekiel Elliott will be able to go on Sunday as the seventh-year running back is dealing with a torn MCL and thigh bruise. With no Zeke available, the team will turn to their other running back ace Tony Pollard.
Many fans have been pleading for Pollard to get more touches as he offers the offense more big-play ability, and with Elliott out, he most definitely will get his chances. However, don’t be surprised if the coaching staff doesn’t overload Pollard with extra work, but instead incorporates UDFA running back Malik Davis into the game plan. Davis was a fan-favorite in the preseason as many preferred him over Rico Dowdle. Ultimately, Dowdle was chosen over Davis, but Dowdle was placed on injured reserve a couple of weeks ago with an ankle injury. Davis was called up at that time and has played sparingly on special teams over the last two weeks.
The Bears have a good defense, but they are vulnerable against the run and teams keep attacking them. No team in the league has more rushing attempts against them. Look for the Cowboys to keep their running game going even with Zeke sideline and the rookie Davis could end up having a key role in that.
5. Turpin Time!
We all know it’s just a matter of time before KaVontae Turpin takes one to the house. In each of the last two weeks he’s gotten loose past midfield but then was tripped up at the last second. He’s gotten so close.
The Bears' offense is one of the worst in yards gained and no quarterback has been sacked more than Fields. There are going to be some quick possession for Chicago on Sunday and that should provide Turpin with some chances to get his first return touchdown of the season and don’t be surprised if this is the week he gets AT&T Stadium rockin’ with a big play.