Texans vs. Bears: A Sunday Night Football Matchup Preview

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistNovember 9, 2012

Arian Foster probably won't get holes like this against Chicago.
Arian Foster probably won't get holes like this against Chicago.Bob Levey/Getty Images

The commercials may not sell for a million dollars a pop, but there's a good chance America could be watching the Super Bowl on Sunday night.

The 7-1 Houston Texans travel to Chicago to take on the 7-1 Bears in a showdown between arguably the best team in each conference.

Here's everything you need to know about the marquee matchup of Week 10.

What it Means

Obviously this game will get plenty of attention because virtually everyone thinks the Texans are the best team in the AFC, and the Bears have an equally gaudy resume in the NFC.

In terms of effect on the season, the game is much bigger for Chicago than Houston.

Yes, if the Texans lose, they're lead in the AFC South will shrink to just a game, but they are in no real danger of losing the division. Win or lose, they will still be the first overall seed in the AFC at the end of the night.

The Bears, on the other hand, have to keep their foot on the peddle just to stay on top in their division. They have the Packers lurking at 6-3, and everyone in the NFC North is .500 or over.

In a conference with Atlanta, the Giants and 49ers, no contender can afford too many losses.

Matchup to Watch

Chicago Front Four Versus Arian Foster

According to Football Outsiders, the Bears have the fifth-best run defense in football. While those numbers are opponent-adjusted, there's still some question as to how the Bears will fair against better runners.

The best overall back they played in 2012 was Maurice Jones-Drew. There's not much glean from that tape, however, because the Jaguars' passing attack is so limited.

The Bears were able to bring virtually the entire defense down to the line of scrimmage as they sat in wait for for the back. Jones-Drew picked up 56 yards on just 12 carries, and 27 came on a single run.

The Texans pose an entirely different challenge, obviously. Matt Schaub is superior to Blaine Gabbert in the same way that filet mignon is superior to baloney.

Like most cover-2 defenses, the Bears are built to stop the pass first, and linemen like Henry Melton (who is questionable for Sunday) and Stephen Paea are far more effective when rushing the passer.

Stat that Matters

Defensive DVOA

DVOA is an efficiency stat calculated by the Football Outsiders.

By their metric, the two best defenses in football will take the field in Chicago in Week 10.

Traditional yards-based rankings are utterly useless for evaluating football teams and should never be taken seriously; they tend to punish good teams who play with big leads and happily give up meaningless drives late in exchange for a running clock.

Ranked by yards, the Bears are just sixth in the NFL and the Texans third. If you factor in opponent adjustments and situations, both teams rise to the top of the league.

Biggest Advantage for Houston

Chicago's defense has thrived on turnovers, leading the NFL in takeaways. This helps offset some of the natural limitations of their scheme.

The Texans come in with the fewest turnovers in football. This should neutralize the central premise of the Chicago game plan.

The Texans have a more productive passing offense than Chicago does, but it's a low-risk passing attack. Houston's habit of ball security should serve them well.

Chicago will likely be forced to live without the defensive scores and short fields they've been accustomed to.

Biggest Advantage for Chicago

These two teams are evenly matched except for one area; the Bears have the best special teams unit in the football.

The Texans have the worst.

Chicago has the best kickoff coverage unit in the game and excels at all aspects of special teams play.

In a tightly matched affair, this could make all the difference.

Best Video Only Tangentially Related to the Game

The 2011 Texans and Bears were doppelgangers. Both teams seemed destined for special seasons until injuries hit.

Houston Will Win If...

Foster has a productive game.

The Texans' passing game will likely struggle against the Bears outstanding secondary.

Assuming Charles Tillman plays, passing yards should be hard to come by for Houston, so they'll have to sustain drives on the ground with Foster.

The biggest key for the Texans will be to force Jay Cutler into mistakes. He's thrown eight interceptions and fumbled four times already in 2012.

If Houston can force the Bears to score on offense by not allowing big plays for points by the defense and special teams units, they could come home with a win.

Chicago Will Win If...

Houston becomes one-dimensional.

The Texans struggle when the passing game can't execute off of play-action because the run game isn't working. So far in 2012, that hasn't happened often.

The Texans have a good, but not great offense. If Chicago clamps down and gets pressure on Matt Schaub, they should do fine.

Chicago will seek to not lose the game on offense and wait for the defense to strike for a big play.


The Texans are the best team in the AFC, but the Bears are the best team in football.

It will be a close contest for sure, and should the Texans win, they'll obviously validate their standing as the odds-on favorite to win it all.

The team that needs the win more is the home team. That's typically a recipe for a win in the NFL.

Chicago 24 Houston 19


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