Two of the best teams face off in one of the best games of the NFL season as the Houston Texans take on the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football.
The Texans (7-1) are still trying to atone for a loss against the Green Bay Packers earlier this season and will seek to exact some NFC North revenge in Week 10.
When the Texans are on the top of their game, no one can come close to touching them. With a fearsome defense and a balanced offense, it's easy to see why many consider them the best team in the NFL.
The Bears (7-1) have plenty of people thinking they're the best team in the NFL as well. With a defense that hearkens back to their last Super Bowl run and an offense that finally isn't a liability, Jay Cutler and Co. seem poised for greatness.
So, who wins this potential Super Bowl preview?
Key Storyline No. 1: Who's the Best Team in the NFL?
It's pretty simple—the winner of this game is (at least in Week 10)—the best team in the NFL.
Now, apologies to the Atlanta Falcons who haven't lost yet, but they haven't faced a team quite like either of these. Apologies, too, to the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots or any other team that thinks they could lay claim to the throne.
All those other teams (and their hard feelings) aside, this is the game that decides who we're talking about now and potentially up to the playoffs as "the best."
Key Storyline No. 2: Does Defense Still Win Championships?
It's become a maxim, but in recent years, defense hasn't won very many championships.
The New York Giants had a fearsome front four against the Patriots in last year's Super Bowl, but that doesn't change the fact their defense was mostly garbage in 2011. The Packers' and Saints' defenses before that weren't much to write home about, either.
The Texans and the Bears are trying to buck the trend. Now, both teams have pretty great offenses as well, but the defenses are elite and these two teams are trying to show that in a passing-heavy NFL, defense can still win championships.
Keys for the Houston Texans
Ball control is huge when facing off against the Bears, but schematically it's not like they're going to run a play called "don't fumble" or "when this ball bounces off of your hands, make sure no one picks it off." No, the Texans will have to trust that some "luck" will go their way while they're smart with the ball in other ways.
On offense, the Texans need Arian Foster to be a big factor, even if he's not making huge plays right out of the gate. If they get too one-dimensional, Julius Peppers is going to hurt someone. Keep plugging away with Foster through the two- and three-yarders and he'll always reward you with a long-gainer.
The defense needs to play balanced as well. While it is tempting to blitz the daylights out of Jay Cutler, the truth is that the Bears are probably ready for that. Part of Wade Philips' success is that he knows when and where to dial up the best pressure.
When they blitz, however, they need to connect because the Bears' offense is too good right now not to take advantage of man-on-man downfield.
Keys for the Chicago Bears
Jay Cutler needs to keep his composure in this one, because he knows J.J. Watt is going to get his hand on some passes and he knows the Texans are going to create some turnovers. It's just going to happen. In many ways, this game will hinge on Cutler's ability to stand amongst the fray and still make plays.
The Bears have to get Matt Forte involved in more than just the running game. In fact, if Forte isn't their leader in targets, something may have gone terribly wrong. It's not just that he's the security blanket (he is), but he's also the key to keeping the Texans' off-balanced and guessing. Screens, draws, swing passes, whatever—just get him the ball.
On defense, the Bears can't just assume they'll get those trademark turnovers. They know they'll have to play perfect scheme as well if the bounces go to the Texans.
Shutting down the Texans' passing game is the quickest way to pouncing on them early. The Bears have the talent on the outside to shut down Andre Johnson and Co. and have enough talent in the front four to get pressure on Schaub without blitzing.
Bold Prediction: Matt Forte and Arian Foster Will Rush For Less Than 100 Yards COMBINED
Yards are going to be hard to come by in this one, but this bold prediction is really out on a limb—two elite running backs under 100 yards, combined?
In the end, I think both of these guys has a huge impact on Sunday night's game, but Forte will do it though the passing game and Foster will do so in a few large game-changing chunks and a bunch of smaller gains.
Player of the Game Prediction: Lance Briggs
In a game centered around two great defenses, this one has to have a defensive standout. Briggs is going to spend a lot of the game scraping through that Texans zone-blocking scheme and tracking down Foster. He'll do so, take home player of the night honors, and the Bears will win the game.
Final Score Prediction: Bears 26, Texans 24
Michael Schottey is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."
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