A Chicago Bears team that harbored Super Bowl dreams when the season began limps into tonight’s matchup on the NFL Network with a Dallas Cowboys team that still has postseason aspirations but is smarting from a Thanksgiving flameout. The Bears (5-7) have won three straight against the Cowboys (8-4) and two straight at home, but those are empty numbers in what is shaping up to be a lost season in the Windy City.
Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears
Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NFL Network
Spread: Dallas -3.5
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Dallas’ Key to Victory: Forget Thanksgiving
Now that the calendar has turned to December, many are expecting another Cowboys swoon. In fact, that swoon may have started early with a dispiriting 33–10 loss at home to Philadelphia on Thanksgiving. In laying that Turkey Day egg, the ’Boys dropped from a tie for the division lead to out of the playoffs altogether had they started the next week. So was the game a sign of another ignominious collapse or a much-needed wake-up call? The answer could come this week as the Cowboys take on a Bears team that is playing out the string. It’s premature to call this a must-win for the 8-4 Cowboys, but for a team that has yet to lose on the road this season (5-0), a return to form is essential. Tony Romo has thrived away from home this season, with a 12-to-1 TD-to-interception ratio and a 122.0 passer rating, helping the Cowboys enter this one with a renewed sense of confidence. “No excuses,” said defensive tackle Jerome Mincey. “We just gotta get better. Sometimes it's good to get a good old-fashioned butt-kicking to get you going again.”
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Chicago’s Key to Victory: Offensive Balance
At this point, the Chicago defense is what it is. The Bears, unlike their “Monsters of the Midway” predecessors, are going to allow some points. It’s up to the offense, the supposed specialty of head coach Marc Trestman, to keep Chicago competitive as the curtain lowers on a disappointing season. The Bears joined the Cowboys in underachieving in front of a Thanksgiving audience, and a primary culprit was a lack of balance. Running back Matt Forté carried the ball only five times for six yards in the 34-17 loss to Detroit. Chicago ranks 28th in the NFL with 23.1 rushing attempts per game and ranks 26th with 93.2 yards per game on the ground. Forté would welcome a chance to touch the ball more frequently. “It’s of the utmost importance, especially if we’re playing outside, with the weather and stuff,” he said. “You can’t just sit back there and throw 50 passes a game and expect to win.”
Forté had an exceptional game when these two teams last met — a 45–28 Bears win last season in which Chicago piled up 490 total yards. But these Bears are averaging only 340 yards per game, and their points-per-game output has fallen by nearly a touchdown compared to last year. This game provides a nice get-well opportunity for a wounded Cowboys team.