The Houston Texans and Chicago Bears will meet in a clash of the titans on Sunday. Both teams enter the game with a record of 7-1, thanks to their stingy defenses and impressive rushing attacks.
This matchup should be a low-scoring affair, but it will have major playoff implications in both conferences.
Where: Soldier Field
When: Sunday, Nov. 11 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL.com
Betting Line: Chicago (-1), according to Bovada
Houston Injury Report (via Yahoo! as of Nov. 8, 2012)
|Earl Mitchell NT||Probable||Ankle|
|Shiloh Keo S||Probable||Back|
|Johnathan Joseph CB||Probable||Groin|
|Ben Jones C||Probable||Illness|
|Lestar Jean WR||Probable||Knee|
|Quintin Demps S||Probable||Thumb, forearm|
|Owen Daniels TE||Probable||Hamstring|
|Shaun Cody NT||Probable||Back|
|Bryan Braman LB||Probable||Neck|
|T.J. Yates QB||Probable||Right elbow|
|Cody White G||Probable||Illness|
|Kevin Walter WR||Probable||Illness|
|Ben Tate RB||Out||Hamstring|
|Antonio Smith DE||Probable||Ankle|
|Wade Smith G||Probable||Knee|
|Jesse Nading LB||Probable||Foot, neck|
Chicago Injury Report (via Yahoo! as of Nov. 8, 2012)
|Matt Spaeth TE||Probable||Ankle|
|Lance Briggs LB||Probable||Toe|
|Jonathan Scott T||Probable||Groin|
|Alshon Jeffery WR||Out||Hand|
What's At Stake?
Well I can't truthfully say that there are playoff spots on the line since both of these teams should cruise into the postseason, but there is a first-round bye on the line for both teams.
Houston stands alone atop the AFC standings at 7-1, but is only one game up on the Baltimore Ravens for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. After the Ravens comes a host of teams at 5-3 who could all contend for a first-round bye, including the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos.
On the other hand, Chicago isn't even in first in the NFC right now, with the 8-0 Falcons being the only team in football with a better record than either of these two teams. The Bears currently sit at No. 2 in the NFC, but are only one game up on the San Francisco 49ers and a game-and-a-half on the New York Giants.
Both teams have several other teams hot on their heels, and winning this game could lighten the load that each team must bear.
Houston still has six games left against opponents with records of .500 or better, including two against the AFC South rival Colts.
The Bears have a difficult schedule as well, with their remaining opponents are a combined 12 games over .500. The team has only one game against against a sub-.500 team (the Arizona Cardinals) left, and a rematch with the Packers left on the slate.
Both teams have tough roads ahead of them, and a win on Sunday night could prove to be the difference between a first-round bye and an added game in their respective quests for a Super Bowl ring.
Houston WR Andre Johnson
Johnson was once a no-brainer, and he was started in virtually every league. Those days are long gone, however, and now he is a week-by-week player.
This week I'm starting him against a tough Chicago defense. While he will be working against either Charles Tillman or Tim Jennings, Chicago's weakest aspect on defense is easily through the air.
I'm not trusting Matt Schaub to stay turnover-free, and I expect him to throw enough interceptions to make him not worth your while. However, Johnson has been doing good things as of late, hauling in 25 passes for nearly 300 yards in his last three games. If he can find his way into the end zone he's definitely worth a start.
Chicago Defense and Special Teams
If you have the Bears' defense then you're obviously going to start them. Even against a tough Houston offense, led by Arian Foster and a solid passing attack, you're not sitting the No. 1 defense, which is 43 points ahead of the next closest team.
Chicago eats turnover-prone quarterbacks up, and Schaub threw for two picks against Green Bay in the Texans' only loss this season. This is the best secondary he's faced, and I could see him throwing a few more on Sunday.
What They Are Saying
Both teams are focusing on finding ways to beat the other team's defense. In possibly the best defensive matchup we'll see all season, points will be at a premium, and neither team is taking the other lightly.
Offensively, we still have some ways to go. Struggling in the red zone a little bit. We've got to get off to better starts. Third, fourth quarter, I think we're playing really well. We're making adjustments. But at some point we have to put together four quarters.
It looks like that point has come. The Texans are going to stymie this offense, but the Bears can't be rattled.
The same can be said for the Texans' offense against the Bears' defense, and coach Gary Kubiak emphasized the need to protect the ball against a team that has forced 28 turnovers and scored seven defensive touchdowns in eight games this season.
We’ll have to make a big point of it. One of the great things that this team does is when you make a play on them they don’t give up on the play. If you throw a slant route or your back gets out and busts the line of scrimmage, there are people working downfield to poke the ball out and finish plays. They are excellent at that. So we obviously have to hit our guys on it.
Looks lie both teams know exactly what they need to work on this week.
Key Matchup: Matt Schaub vs. Chicago Defensive Backs
In all honesty, this game could come down to any single aspect in this game, but the one I'll be watching most intently is how Matt Schaub fares against Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and Chicago's intimidating secondary.
Schaub has only thrown four interceptions on the season, but two of those came in a loss to the Packers. The Packers' secondary is not up to par with that of the Bears, and if he makes such mistakes against Chicago on Sunday we could see the Bears score a few times on defense.
I simply cannot overstate how good this Chicago secondary is, and one bad pass by Schaub could mean six points for Chicago.
This game is going to come down to the turnover margin, and I can't pick against the Bears in that category. After forcing more than four turnovers per game and averaging nearly one defensive touchdown in every contest, I expect the Bears to get the better of Schaub and the Texans' offense, but it will be a close game.
Bears 17, Texans 14 (OT)
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