It would be easy to look at this matchup of two 7-1 teams and say that for the Texans to win, they need Adrian Foster to run for 100 yards and J.J. Watt to knock down two passes and have two sacks. Alternatively, the Bears need Matt Forte to run for a 100 yards and the defense to have four takeaways.
But in reality, the keys to winning an NFL game often go beyond the obvious. Yes, Chicago needs to stop the run and force Matt Shaub to beat them. Also, the offensive line needs to do whatever it can to stop the Texans' defense.
In fact, the Bears defense needs to chip and even chop block the Texans, as there are no style points in this game.
Jay Cutler needs to get rid of the football more quickly and needs to make better decisions. Mike Tice needs to figure out a way to get the tight ends into the offense. And more screens to Forte would be nice while we're at it.
Still, no matter what the Bears do, the Texans will be their stiffest test to date. It's with that in mind that I present to you my five keys to the game.
1. Watch out for J.J. Watt's pass deflections.
Watt is obviously a terrific pass rusher with a relentless motor, and that alone should scare Bears QB Jay Cutler. But he's also a smart player who recognizes that when he can't get to the QB, he can deflect passes at the line of scrimmage.
2. Get at least four yards on first down.
The Bears offense is the worst in the league on first down. This could be the week that the offense is actually needed, as the defense simply can't continue getting so many takeaways, can they?
Second-and-10 simply won't put the Bears in position to make a first down, especially against Houston.
3. The tackles need to play much better.
In run defense, right tackle Gabe Carimi has been very good, but in pass defense he has been just as awful as left tackle J'Marcus Webb. But because this is basically Carimi's rookie season, Bears fans are more likely to cut him slack.
Watt will line up more often against Webb, though they do move him around similarly to what the Bears do with Julius Peppers. But Watt is better than Peppers.
The Bears need to chip, cut, do whatever they can, both within the rules and maybe even just outside the rules, if they're going to stop this guy.
Even if they stop his rush, he will pull up and try to block the pass, as mentioned earlier, which he is very good at doing.
4. Someone other than Brandon Marshall needs to step up against man coverage.
The Texans play a lot of man coverage, but if they take away Marshall as expected, one of the other receivers need to step up. Look, if one guy is double-covered, another guy must be free. It's only logical, right?
Earl Bennett and Matt Forte need to pick up the slack. Forte is great catching passes out of the backfield, and just because Marshall is here doesn't mean we should forget about Forte's ability.
Meanwhile, the Bears should pound the run against Houston. I know they are good at stopping the run, but I just don't trust this offensive line to block in the passing game.
5. Roll Cutler Out!
Cutler actually is more accurate when rolling out to his right than he is when standing in the pocket. Plus, with the way the Bears offensive line has been blocking pass rushers, moving Cutler out of the pocket is a good thing.
Another factor to consider is that it is expected to be very windy in Solider Field on Sunday night, so anything that helps the passing game will be much appreciated. There is also the possibility of rain.