The Chicago Bears will take their talents to South Beach.
Well, for only one night.
They take on the Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football on the NFL Network.
The Bears look to keep their two-game win streak alive, and for at least a few days be alone atop the NFC North. The task won't be easy, as the Miami Dolphins, fresh off an impressive win over the Tennessee Titans, stand in their way.
There's just one problem for Miami, however. The team is down to its third-string quarterback Tyler Thigpen. If that means anything to the Bears, it should mean a good defensive night. The Dolphins lost quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Chad Henne to season-ending injuries in week 10.
The Chicago Bears will need to shut down Miami's versatile run game, which features the Wildcat formation. Chicago hasn't seen the Wildcat offense all season, but must game plan for it. Miami averages 104.1 yards rushing a game, but don't let the numbers fool you. This team can break a long run at any time.
The Bears defense comes into the game ranking fourth overall, and second against the rush. If the defense can shut down Miami's run game and force Tyler Thigpen to try and win the game, Chicago will be successful.
The match-up I'm most looking forward to is the Bears linebackers against the Dolphins running backs. Whoever can win that battle will take the key steps to winning the game.
Brian Urlacher and company have a slight edge, but you never know what Ronnie Brown can pull out of his sleeve.
It will be exciting to watch Miami try and run the ball against this Bears defense.
Chicago's defense could have a big game against Tyler Thigpen. I don't doubt for a second that the defense is licking its chops right now at the thought of Thigpen dropping back. Getting pressure and not letting Thigpen establish a rhythm will only make his day worse.
Thigpen doesn't scare me. I don't think he can go off on this Bears defense that has been playing with a chip on its shoulder all season.
When the Bears have the ball on offense, look for them to try and make Miami respect their ability to run the ball. Chicago has mixed up its play-calling much more after the bye week.
It won't be an easy task for Jay Cutler on Thursday, as Miami brings its sixth-ranked passing defense. While the Dolphins unit may only have six interceptions on the year, Cutler needs to recognize the coverage and limit the mistakes. Doing so will lead to positive results for the Bears.
Chicago's special teams could be the deciding factor. Devin Hester was recently moved back to kickoff duties. Hester gives Chicago the possibility for outstanding field position every time he takes a return.
The Bears special teams will be the difference in the game, and I don't see Miami completely shutting them down.
Thursday night will pose a good opportunity for the Bears to develop a nice run game, as well. They haven't rushed for over 100 yards many times this season. If they can establish a nice run game, and break out some big runs, the Bears will be successful.
If the Bears can win this game, they will remain in first place in the NFC North. Depending on the outcome of Sunday's Packers-Vikings game in Minnesota, the Bears could have company atop the North. If Green Bay loses, the Bears take sole control of the division.
The months of November and December are when teams make their runs toward the playoffs. This game for the Bears could be the turning point that they need. They can make it two wins in less than four days.
Miami won't be an easy obstacle, and although the Dolphins have just one home win all year, they have been locked into many close games.
Three Keys to the Game
-Special Teams playing dominant. It will be key for Hester to give the Bears good field position, and the offense to take advantage of it.
-Shoot the Gaps. On defense, the Bears must stop Miami's run game by getting in the backfield and disrupting the play early. Blitzes must be key, and pressure on Thigpen will lead to mistakes.
-Run the ball efficiently. Establish a run game early and beat them off the line.
Prediction: Bears 24, Dolphins 13