Texans vs. Bears: 5 Matchups That Will Decide Sunday Night Clash
The Chicago Bears welcome the Houston Texans to Solider Field for a Sunday night clash between a pair of 7-1 football teams from opposite conferences.
The Bears, winners of six straight games, remain a team searching for national respect among the NFC elites, while the Texans have already begun stamping their name as one of the contenders in the AFC.
In the following slides, we'll break down the five matchups that will decide whether the Bears or Texans make it out of Week 10 with an 8-1 record.
Texans CB Johnathan Joseph vs. Bears WR Brandon Marshall
Marshall has arguably been the NFL's hottest receiver over the last five games. Starting with a win on Monday night over the Dallas Cowboys and ending with last Sunday's three-touchdown game against the Tennessee Titans, Marshall tallied six total touchdowns and five straight games with 80 or more receiving yards over the stretch.
Drawing Marshall Sunday night will be Joseph, who has bounced back nicely the last two games after getting burned alive by both the New York Jets and Green Bay Packers in consecutive weeks.
Expect defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to give Joseph more than enough bracket help with a safety, but there's going to be times when he needs a lockdown effort one-on-one with Marshall. He needs to win those matchups more often than he did in primetime games against the Jets and Packers.
Texans RB Arian Foster vs. Bears Run Defense
Titans running back Chris Johnson went for over 140 yards against the Bears run defense in Week 9, but this is still one of the NFL's best at stopping opposing running games (No. 6, 88.0 yards/game).
They might get their toughest test Sunday with Foster.
The Texans make their offensive living with Foster controlling the tempo and setting up play-action. Foster is currently fifth in the NFL in rushing yards (770) and first in touchdowns (10), so the Bears can make life much more comfortable on defense by taking him away.
In fact, doing so may be the difference Sunday night.
When Houston has been forced into a one-dimensional offense in 2012, Matt Schaub's unit has looked nothing more than average. In Houston's only loss, Foster was kept under 2.0 yards a carry. But taking away Foster and the running game is much easier said than done, and few have been able to do it consistently.
Texans WR Andre Johnson vs. Bears CB Charles Tillman
The numbers for Charles Tillman through eight games are almost hard to believe.
The veteran cornerback has 43 total tackles (second on team), two interceptions, two touchdowns, one fumble recovery and seven—yes, seven—forced fumbles. Four of those forced fumbles came in the Bears' Week 9 win over the Titans.
Johnson coming to Chicago sets up a fascinating veteran matchup. The 31-year-old receiver has caught eight or more passes in three straight weeks, and his 42 receptions for 562 yards leads the team.
Tillman will want to limit those touches Sunday night, and Johnson has to be extra careful toting the rock if the game's premier ball hawk is in the same area code.
Texans C Chris Myers vs. Bears LB Brian Urlacher
The Bears defense loves to pressure the A-gap, which is defined as the space on either side of the center. Urlacher is usually the one either bringing the pressure or showing pressure, so Texans center Chris Myers must be cognizant of the Bears mike linebacker at all times.
That shouldn't be a problem for one of the game's most underrated centers.
Myers has been consistently good all season at making the right calls in pass protection, and his seven allowed pressure plays rank him near the top of the position. Stonewalling Urlacher in both the pass and run games Sunday night will help motor the Texans offense.
Texans DE J.J. Watt vs. Bears Offensive Line
If there's any player who can disrupt everything the Bears want to do offensively, it's Watt. And he'll be facing the Bears' primary weakness, pass protection along the offensive line.
Phillips will use Watt all over the defensive formation, so there's not one offensive lineman who can count on facing him the entire game. Expect Phillips to find the right matchups and unleash his defensive player of the year candidate, especially on obvious passing downs.
If the Bears have breakdowns up front like in Green Bay—where Jay Cutler was sacked seven times in Week 2—Watt and the Texans' defensive front seven could have a field day. The Bears may have to get more vanilla and keep more blockers in to keep Cutler upright, especially if the Texans are winning one-on-ones up front early.