|Written by Chris Coleman.
The easy part of the schedule is over for the Chicago Bears. Now is when it gets tough. The Bears have run up a 7-1 record against mostly bad teams, having beaten only one team all year with a record above .500. The second half of the season will be against almost all teams with .500 records or better.
Despite skepticism about how they fare against those teams, given what we’ve seen so far this year, the Bears hosting the Houston Texans Sunday night may be the season’s first potential Super Bowl match-up.
While the Bears are at the top of the NFC due to a ferocious defense, the Texans have managed more of a balanced attack. Offense has never been a problem for Gary Kubiak’s teams, but with Wade Phillips at the controls of the defense, the Texans have gone from one of the worst Ds in the league to one of the best.
Ironically, both teams’ sole loses come at the hands of the Green Bay Packers. Sunday night will be (buzz word alert) a great measuring stick for both teams.
The Bears have given up only 15 points a game and forced more than 3 turnovers a game, an alarming stat that Kubiak is more than aware of.
"(The Bears) are very well-built in what they do and they've been together for a long time," Kubiak said. "What they're doing speaks for itself. We have a serious task ahead of us."
But the Texans have protected the ball well this year, turning the ball over a leage-low six times. And Matt Schaub is protected by an amazing ground game that has chalked up 138 yards a game, keeping him from having to throw dangerous deep balls and keeping him in good yardage situations.
"It's kind of a strength against a strength," Kubiak said. "Hopefully we can hold up our end of the bargain."
And as good as the Texans are on the ground offensively, they have been just as good against the run, giving up zero rushing touchdowns all season. If they can contain the Bears run game, that means QB Jay Cutler will be forced to pass more and the Texans rush the QB and, more importantly, knock down passes at a rate as good as anyone in the league.
If J.J. Watt can get his hands on some Cutler third down passes at opportune times, the Texans should be able to win the field position game and rattle the notorious mercurial Cutler.
The Texans use the run to set up Schaub’s passing game, and his favorite target Andre Johnson appears to have come to life, catching 8 passes for 118 yards last week. And Schaub’s other favorite, Owen Daniels, he’s become a touchdown machine of late, catching five in his last six games. In a game of strengths against strengths, this match-up should come down to the weaknesses of both teams. The problem for the Bears is that while their offense is often a weakness, the Texans don’t really appear to have one. The Texans only weakness seems to be the fact that they’ve never won a game this big on this big of a stage.
But if they do, expect the murmurs of Super Bowl potential for the Texans to grow to roars.
The line: Chicago – 1 ˝
The pick: Houston
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Last updated on May 13, 2013.