The Cowboys have just one more game before their bye week, and it couldn’t have come at a better time: Dallas listed a whopping 13 players on their injury report this week, and Ezekiel Elliott is not expected to play after suffering a knee injury against the Lions.
Before the Cowboys can take some time off, though, they’ll welcome in a Bears team that just upset the Patriots on the road this past Monday. That game served as a good reminder that Dallas can’t afford to overlook anyone, even if they’re favored to win this game by two scores. Do our writers think they’ll rise to the occasion or fall into the trap?
When Chicago has the ball
Clog the running lanes
The Bears are a run first offense, and even though they’ve struggled to score points much of this season, they’ve had success on the ground. They’re running the ball more than anyone and are tied for the fifth most yards per carry. Their young duo of David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert have been one of the best running back tandems in the league this year.
Chicago’s offense is run by Luke Getsy - who spent four seasons on Mike McCarthy’s Packers staff - and he’s adopted the outside zone scheme that Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay have popularized while sprinkling in plenty of option plays for mobile quarterback Justin Fields.
As good as Chicago has been on the ground, they struggle mightily when throwing the ball. Fields is holding the ball at the second longest rate, and it’s resulted in being the most sacked and the most pressured quarterback in the NFL so far. Dallas leads the league in both sacks and pressures, and they’ll be facing an offensive line that will be down two starters already. If this defense - buoyed by recent trade acquisition Johnathan Hankins - can take away the run game and force Getsy and Fields into throwing it more, that should be a big day for Micah Parsons and crew.
When Dallas has the ball
Run behind that rookie
Ezekiel Elliott was officially listed as doubtful for this game, and while he wasn’t actually ruled out, Zeke is expected to sit this one out. That means Tony Pollard will step into the lead back role. That may actually be better for Dallas: Pollard is currently ninth among all running backs in yards per carry.
Not only that, but Pollard is fourth in rushing efficiency - which measures the amount of time a runner spends going north/south - and also sixth in rushing yards over expectation. Pollard has excelled this year on outside runs for Dallas, using his agility and explosiveness to burst through running lanes.
That bodes well for this game because the Bears have struggled to stop the run. They’re 24th in run defense DVOA and have been especially bad on outside runs to the left. In fact, teams have run it in that direction against this defense at the ninth highest rate and Chicago is giving up over seven yards a carry on those runs. Rookie left tackle Tyler Smith hasn’t been perfect, but he’s looked dominant as a run blocker. So, given this matchup, a healthy dose of Pollard with Smith leading the way seems like a slam dunk.
Now onto the predictions from your BTB writers...
Tom Ryle (4-3):
The Bears stunned everyone with a dominant win over Patriots, but that may have been more about the QB issues in New England than how good Chicago can play. I feel good about the Cowboys offense, but the match-up between the running game of the Bears and the Dallas D is worrisome.
Still, I expect Dak and company to open up a lead that forces Justin Fields to throw the ball, which will play right into Dan Quinn’s hands.
Cowboys will go into the bye at 6-2.
Tony Catalina (3-4):
I’ve said all week that a Bears victory on Monday night was a good thing for the Cowboys. It ensures this team cannot overlook this weeks game in favor of the relaxation the bye week brings. The Bears showed the league something last week and the Cowboys will need to be on point to handle business. Ultimately the Cowboys are just too talented and will separate themselves in the end.
Cowboys win, 31-17.
Matt Holleran (3-4):
Even though they are dealing with some injuries, I think this will be one of Dallas’ best performances of the season. The Bears do two things poorly, defend against the run and protect their quarterback.
It just so happens that those are two things the Cowboys can easily take advantage of. Dallas’ defense puts together another dominating performance while their ground game leads the way on offense.
Give me the Cowboys, 27-13.
Brandon Loree (5-2):
The depth of this team has become their strength all season. If Ezekiel Elliott can’t play, Tony Pollard is more than ready to handle the workload. If Noah Brown is out, Jalen Tolbert might see meaningful snaps against a quality Bears secondary.
The Bears are coming off their best game of the season but still have holes the Dallas offense can exploit. Chicago has allowed 65 rushing first downs, which leads the league. They also allow offenses to convert 46.59% of their 3rd down attempts. That ranks 30th in the NFL.
Pollard will have a breakout game with two touchdowns and over 120 yards rushing. He’ll lead the Cowboys to a 24-10 win heading into the bye.
Matthew Arizzi (4-3):
By all accounts, this should be a get right game for the Cowboys. Not to say they aren’t playing well, but the scoreboard last weekend didn’t dictate the offense’s showing. It was a slow, badly called set of offense, something they should be able to fine tune heading into the bye.
The Bears are coming off a long rest week and an impressive win against the Patriots, but the Cowboys are ten points favorites for a reason. Expect Tony Pollard to shine against a lackluster rush defense if Elliott is out, especially without Robert Quinn. Give me the Cowboys, decisively.
Cowboys 27, Bears 10.
Mike Poland (5-1):
Since 2021, the Cowboys are 13-1 when their offense rushes for more than 120 yards in a game. The Bears this year are allowing 149.7 rush yards per game.
Since 2021, the Cowboys are 14-2 when their defense allows less than 22 points a game. The Bears this year are scoring an average of 18 points per game. Cowboys win this one at home to a team that’s one road game in their last five roads games.
Cowboys win, 21-12.
Brian Martin (5-2):
With teams like the Bears, the Cowboys always have to be wary of a trap game, especially if players are already thinking about what to do during their bye next week. Having said that though, this is a team Dallas should be able to handle relatively easy. DT Jonathan Haskins’ addition should help them contain Chicago’s top-ranked rushing attack, and in so doing, help secure the “W” for the Cowboys.
Cowboys win, 27-13.
RJ Ochoa (4-3):
It is unwise to underestimate teams in the NFL, but if we are being fair to the process here it is difficult to see the Dallas Cowboys not having their way with the Chicago Bears. Dallas ranks second in Defensive DVOA all while the Bears rank 31st offensively.
It is a stoppable force meeting an immovable object which means the lift on the offensive side of the ball for the good guys, where they are still figuring things out, will be low enough that they should cruise fairly easily to win number six on the season.
David Howman (5-2):
For the second week in a row, the Cowboys are hosting a team in the early stages of a pretty daunting rebuild. Both the Lions and Bears are led by head coaches who believe in the value of grit, and that’s reflected by their players.
Just like last week, this won’t be an easy win for the Cowboys, but they are clearly the more talented team, even with Zeke likely out. I think we’re in for another close first half before Dak Prescott and the offense turn it on for a strong finish.
Cowboys win 30-13.