The Chicago Bears have run off to a 7-1 record, but are they truly elite?
They host the Houston Texans on Sunday, and this game will serve as a barometer for the team. Up to this point, the Bears have defeated only one team with a winning record.
The team's only loss came to the 6-3 Green Bay Packers in Week 2. After a dominant road win over the lowly Tennessee Titans, the Bears must defend their turf against the best the AFC South has to offer.
The key to this game, as it is with any Bears game, is turnovers.
You can bet the Texans have been doing ball security drills for four days in a row to prepare for the Bears. Charles Tillman forced four fumbles by himself against the Titans, and the Bears have forced a league-high 28 turnovers this season in only eight games.
If the Texans turn the ball over, they will lose.
In the their only loss this season—which was coincidentally against the Packers—they turned it over three times.
As good as the Texans are running the ball with Arian Foster, I can't see them blasting the Bears on the ground. It's a matchup of the eighth-best rushing attack against the sixth-best run defense. It's a similar concept as it pertains to the Bears' ability to run the ball against the Texans.
The Bears are 11th in the league in rushing, and the Texans are second only to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in rushing defense. It seems like a wash.
One issue for the Bears is that Tillman could miss the game if his wife goes into labor with their daughter on Sunday, per NBC Chicago.
That obviously removes one of the Bears' major defensive playmakers. If he can't be there for the game, that takes the Bears' best cover guy for big receivers off the field as well. This means Tim Jennings would likely draw the assignment of covering Andre Johnson.
He's having a great year with his league-leading six interceptions, but he may not be physically capable of handling Johnson.
On offense, the Bears O-line must play better than it has in previous weeks. Cutler has been sacked 28 times this season, which is the third highest total in the NFL. J.J. Watt is smiling right now about his chances to blow past J'Marcus Webb.
If the Bears can't protect Cutler, they won't win.
They can't continue to rely on the defense to play as great as they have —especially against quality teams.
The Bears will lose this game, but they will prove they deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with the league's best.
My Prediction: Texans 24, Bears 17
What other teams have huge games on tap in Week 10?
New Orleans Saints
The Saints have won three of their last four games, and now is the time to find out if they can make something out of this disastrous season. At 3-5, they don't have a ton of room for error.
The Atlanta Falcons come to town for what many might have seen as a pivotal division game three months ago. Now it is the Saints' last gasp at making the postseason.
If they pick up their sixth loss this early in the season, chances are they aren't going to make the playoffs. They need this game badly.
The team's biggest problem all season has been defense. They have the 29th-ranked pass defense and the 32nd-ranked run defense, and they've surrendered the most yards (3,770) and allowed the fifth most points (229).
I know their former defensive coordinator has been exposed as a despicable man, but the Saints don't miss Gregg Williams' influence—from a football perspective, of course.
Can this team show up on Sunday and upset the undefeated Atlanta Falcons?
I don't think so.
Atlanta's passing game is operating like a well-oiled machine. Matt Ryan is my choice as league MVP to this point. He's thrown for 17 touchdowns and only six interceptions this season.
There's no way the Saints secondary can contain Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White. The Falcons will put the Saints' season to bed for good.
My Prediction: Falcons 40, Saints 24
Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles
These teams are in similar situations. They have to decide soon if they are contenders in the division or not. Both sit at 3-5 on the season, and if they are going to prevent the New York Giants from running away with the NFC East, they need to string some wins together.
Unless there's a tie, the string could begin for one of them on Sunday. The winner of this game will be dictated by the quarterback play. Both Mike Vick and Tony Romo have had their ups and downs this season.
Both need a strong performance to quiet the critics, and to save their team's seasons. The Eagles have lost four in a row; turnovers were the issue earlier in the season, but they have only turned the ball over one time in two games.
Unfortunately, the one turnover played a huge role in their loss to the New Orleans Saints on Monday night, but Vick is playing much better in his last two games—sans that pick-six. I predict he'll have his best game of the season against the Cowboys.
He's always played well against Dallas in his career. His teams have a 4-2 record against them, and he's thrown 11 touchdowns to only one interception against the Boys.
On the flip side, Romo has been dreadful against the Eagles.
Andy Reid's teams have had no issues giving him the flux. He's 6-6 against the Eagles with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Eagles will win this game on the strength of home field advantage, Vick's strong play, and more Romo errors.
My Prediction: Eagles 34, Cowboys 17
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