Sunday night in Chicago will be a battle between two 7-1 teams, the Houston Texans and the Chicago Bears.
Much like the Bears, the Texans have relied heavily on their stellar defense, but the also have an offense with the potential to put up big numbers.
The focal point of a Texans offense that averages 371 yards a game, 11th-best in the league, is running back Arian Foster.
Foster has been a workhorse this season, carrying the ball 192 times for 770 yards and 10 touchdowns, and only has one game this season where he has failed to rush for more than 79 yards. He has tremendous vision and can hit the hole with power and speed. His combination of athleticism and strength makes him one of the tougher backs to take down in the league.
Foster has benefited from a strong offensive line, particular on the left side. Duane Brown anchors the left side and was named to the 2011 AP All-Pro Second Team. Brown allowed just 2.5 sacks last season and none so far this season, meaning it will be a tough task for Julius Peppers to try and get to the quarterback.
Wade Smith has started every game at left guard over the last three years, and although he can struggle at times against the bull-rush, he is a solid run-blocker. Stephen Paea's ability to bull-rush, as well as that of Nick Collins, could eventually give Smith trouble.
Center Chris Myers made his first Pro Bowl last season, and his size and quickness are a perfect fit for the Texans' zone running scheme. The right side of the line has been in a state of flux all season long, with Antoine Caldwell and Ben Jones rotating often at right guard and Derek Newton and Ryan Harris rotating at right tackle.
The Bears' Henry Melton, Israel Idonije (if healthy) and Shea McClellin will have the difficult task of going against the Texans' rotation on the right side, as Houston has the ability to continually bring in fresh bodies. The Bears thus far have had a similar strength this season, and on Sunday night they'll be faced with the same problem.
Quarterback Matt Schaub has been protected well by an offensive line that has only given up 10 sacks this season, tied for second-fewest in the NFL. Schaub has settled in for yet another solid season, throwing for over 1,900 yards, 12 touchdowns, and just four interceptions.
On the season, have just six turnovers, and will prove to a be a tough task for the takeaway-happy Bears' defense.
Schaub is a textbook pocket passer, and although he isn't the most athletic, he has the ability to step up in the pocket and does a good job sensing the pressure. He can throw the deep ball, but excels more in the short-to-intermediate passing game.
The Bears will need to get pressure from their front four. and they may benefit from occasionally sending safety Chris Conte to blitz and upset Schaub's rhythm.
Andre Johnson continues to be Schaub's main receiving threat, and although not as explosive as he has been in the past, he still leads the team in receptions (42) and receiving yards (562). Charles Tillman will likely get the tough assignment of matching up against Johnson, but he has been arguably the best defensive player in the league this season.
Kevin Walter is a steady and consistent wide receiver who doesn't awe you with his athleticism, but he is dependable when called upon, as well as a solid blocker.
When not throwing the ball towards Johnson, Schaub's focus is on tight end Owen Daniels. Daniels leads the team with five touchdown receptions and is second in yardage with 478. He injured his knee back in 2009, but he's finally worked himself back into the player he once was.
For the Bears, Nick Roach has been underrated with his ability to cover tight ends this season, and will likely have the task of matching up against Daniels.
James Casey has played well in multiple roles in the Texans' offense this season. They line him up as their starting fullback and he is also their second tight end.
He is a solid run- and pass-blocker and has excellent hands. He has 21 catches on the season and is a perfect example of what the Bears would like their rookie Evan Rodriguez to be. He is a matchup problem when out on the field and will likely draw the attention of middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.
Matt Eurich is a contributor to Bearsbacker.com. Follow Bears Backer on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute news about the Bears. Also, check out Matt’s work on BleacherReport.com and follow him on Twitter @MattEurich.
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