After a second consecutive long week of preparation, the Chicago Bears close Week 4 of the NFL schedule with a Monday Night Football visit to the Dallas Cowboys. Although the spotlight will be on mercurial quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Tony Romo, it’s a good bet that the defenses will tell the story at Cowboy Stadium.
Here’s a look at the biggest factors in determining who will come away with the win on Monday night:
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1. Is Chicago ready for DeMarco Murray?
Through three weeks, the Bears have the league’s fourth-best run defense, but they’ve done it against a decidedly sub-par group of rushers. Now they’ll get their first serious challenge against the game-breaking speed of Dallas’ DeMarco Murray.
Murray, also a serious receiving threat, is averaging 4.3 yards a carry thus far. The Bears have the talent in the front seven to contain him, but if he breaks off a big play or two in the early going, he could force the Bears to bring safety help and open up the deep ball for Tony Romo.
2. Will DeMarcus Ware blow up the Bears’ passing game?
The Cowboys have the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL, and no player contributes more to that effort than linebacker DeMarcus Ware. The star pass rusher already has four sacks on the year, and he’ll be licking his chops at the chance to face Chicago’s patchwork offensive line.
Ware is more than capable of handing the Bears a replay of their Clay Matthews-fueled Week 2 debacle. Unless offensive coordinator Mike Tice manages to pull a rabbit out of his hat, expect Ware and his mates to make a lot more plays than Jay Cutler does in this matchup.
3. Can Michael Bush keep the running game clicking?
After keeping him out of Chicago’s win over St. Louis, Matt Forte’s ankle has him questionable this week. Even if Forte can go, Michael Bush will be carrying more than his usual share of the rushing load, a job he did admirably against the Rams.
The bruising Bush has to like his chances against a Dallas defense that Marshawn Lynch torched for 122 yards and a score two weeks ago. If the Cowboys toughen up against the run, though, the Bears’ attack could become one-dimensional (and ineffective) very quickly.
Prediction: Dallas 17, Chicago 13
With two superlative pass-rushing defenses, neither offense is in for a fun night. Dallas, for a rarity, has the healthier corps of running backs, and that edge will combine with home-field advantage to help the ‘Boys eke out a victory.798395