There’s a lot at stake for the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears as they face-off against each other for tonight’s Monday Night Football match-up. For the Cowboys, winning this game ties them up with the Philadelphia Eagles for first place in the NFC East. A loss for the Cowboys, will put them behind the Eagles and in an up hill battle to catch up with them. When it comes to the Bears, they are in similar situation, a win could tie them up with the Detroit Lions in the NFC North but a loss could put them behind which is not what they want.
However, only one team can win in this game and if both teams follow certain steps, both teams will have a good chance to come out victorious.
Cowboys Steps to Victory
Offensively the Cowboys must step up and protect quarterback Tony Romo. The Bears defense has obviously taken a step back from last season but they still have great pass rusher in Julius Peppers. So the Cowboys must make a point to contain him and give Romo time in the pocket. When it comes to Romo, I encourage him to attack the Bears secondary that has been extremely inconsistent this season, specifically at the corner-back position. When it comes to wide receiver Dez Bryant, I definitely want him to be targeted but Romo needs to be prepared to spread the ball around, he has other weapons in Miles Austin and Cole Beasley and he needs to use them. Both Austin and Beasley have shown the ability to create after the catch so Romo needs to give them that opportunity. Romo must also challenge the linebackers to keep up with tight end Jason Witten. However, for this game plan to work, Romo must be accurate and take what the defense gives him and his receivers must step up and catch the ball.
Cowboys must also make a point to get running back DeMarco Murray going in this game. Bears defense is ranked last in the NFL in opponent rushing yards, allowing opponents to rush for 132 yards a game. If I am the Cowboys, I want to challenge that. I also think the Cowboys should use Murray in the passing game, he has shown the ability to make plays in the receiving game plus I don’t think the Bears secondary can keep up with Bryant, Witten and Murray.
Defensively, the Cowboys could have their hands full in this game starting with secondary. If I am the Cowboys you really need to be prepared to slow down the passing game. Now that’s not to say that the Bears running game is unimportant, I just feel for the Cowboys defense to have success, it must be against the passing game. To do that, the defensive line must create some form of pressure and do their best to rattle quarterback Josh McCown. The Bears offensive line has improved but they still allow plenty of pressure on McCown so the Cowboys need to take advantage of it. Now the Cowboys don’t necessarily have to blitz, they are creative enough to throw pressure schemes and still be productive. However, the secondary must still be prepared to step up and play well in coverage, starting with the safeties. When it comes to the Bears, they have two great receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and while I feel the Cowboy corner-backs will play solid their will still be a big height disadvantage. So the Cowboy safeties have to be prepared to help out and contain those big plays. If anything, I think the Cowboys should force McCown to beat them without Marshall and Jeffery and use his other weapons but to do that they will have to bracket both Marshall and Jeffery at times which will put pressure on the rest of the defense to step up and do their part.
Bears Keys to Victory
When it comes what the Bears must do to win this game, it all starts with the offense. The Bear offense must be ready to play aggressive if they plan on having any success in this game, specifically in the passing. When it comes to the passing game, quarterback Josh McCown must spread the ball around, he has great receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. However, you can bet that the Cowboys will make a point to bracket Marshall and Jeffery and with that being said, McCown has to get everyone involved in the passing game like tight end Martellus Bennet and even running back Matt Forte. Game plan wise, I think head coach Marc Trestman must make a point to use Bennett and Forte for the short-intermediate routes, by doing that it will open up opportunities for McCown to go deep to Marshall and Jeffery. However, for this game plan to work, the Bear offensive line must make a point to protect McCown and give him time in the pocket.
The Bears will also need the running game to be successful in this game. The Bears can’t afford to become one-dimensional in this game so the run game must get going. However for the run game to get going, the offensive line must control the line of scrimmage and open up some holes for Forte. Keep in mind that the Bears run game doesn’t need to dominate but they at least need to offer balance with the run game. Plus running the ball well will help to open up more opportunities for the pass game, keep the Cowboys defense on their toes and hopefully keep the Cowboys offense off the field.
Defensively, I worry a lot about the Bears in this game, mainly because I don’t feel that the defense will be able to slow down the Cowboys offense much. With that being said, the Bears must do their best to bend but not break. Meaning they should do their best to force the Cowboys to settle for a couple of field goals instead of touchdowns and possibly force a couple three and outs. If they can do that, then the Bears defense will have done their job.
Last but not least, the Bears must step shooting themselves in the foot with costly penalties. According to ESPN, the Bears have committed 29 penalties for 249 yards in their last three games. That’s unacceptable and frankly it isn’t helping them to win the games. So if they plan to win this game, they must stop with the costly penalties.
I may surprise a lot of people with my prediction but I am going with the Chicago Bears in this one. I think the Bears are still upset about their overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings, a game they know they should have won. Then with the Lions losing to the Eagles this past Sunday, they understand that the window is once again open for them to get back in the race. While I feel the Cowboy are more than capable of winning this game, I don’t trust the Cowboys to finish the season strong starting with this game. Now of course I could be very wrong but when I consider the Cowboys track record, I feel they have to show me that they can finish strong and go to the playoffs.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
Listen to LBeasley’s Radio Show, “Sports Talk with L-Beasley” every Mon, Wed & Fri from 6-8pm (ET) on LBeasley.com