Thursday night NFL: Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears (+video)
Chicago needs to finish the year with four wins to have any hope of making the postseason, while Dallas needs to right the ship a bit in order to reach the playoffs.
The Dallas Cowboys, one game back in the NFC East, travel to Chicago to take on the Bears at Soldiers Field. The Bears are 5-7 this season and need to win all four of their final games to have even the slightest chance of making the NFL postseason.
Chicago has proven weapons on offense. Quarterback Jay Cutler is the tenth-rated signal caller in the NFL, having thrown for over 3,100 yards and 24 touchdown passes. Running back Matt Forte has rushed for over 800 yards and has 650 yards receiving. Between them, wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery have accounted for 125 catches, over 1,500 receiving yards, and 15 touchdowns. Jeffery, however, is questionable for Thursday night's game with a leg injury.
The problem for the Bears has been on defense. Chicago used to be known as the "Monsters of the Midway." The closest 'monster' these days is former All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen, who is second on the team in sacks with 4-1/2. So far this season, the Bears defense allows the opposition an average of 28 points per game. The pass defense is giving up an average of just over eight yards per completion by the opposition.
For Dallas, it's been a good season overall, resulting in an 8-4 record. However, after winning six of their first seven games, the Cowboys are 2-3 in their last five.
Dallas running back DeMarco Murray continues to lead the NFL in rushing with 1,427 yards gained and eight touchdowns. With ten touchdown receptions this year, wide receiver Dez Bryant needs just 48 more yards to eclipse the 1,000-yard barrier for the third time in his NFL career. And quarterback Tony Romo can still throw to dependable tight end Jason Witten, who averages over ten yards per catch.
Recently, the Cowboy defense has had some uneven performances, including an NFC East division loss at home last Thursday to the Philadelphia Eagles. They allowed Eagles running back LeSean McCoy to run for 159 yards and wideout Jeremy Maclin to grab eight passes for 108 yards. The Bears' weapons on offense will present yet another challenge to coordinator Rod Marinelli's crew, though he knows some of the cast after spending four seasons on the Chicago coaching staff.
You can watch the Bears and the Cowboys on the NFL Network, beginning at 8:25 p.m. Eastern time Thursday.