The Cowboys and Bears both entered the season with hopes of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Instead, they head into their Thursday Night Football match-up with identical records of 6-6. Fortunately for Dallas, their mediocrity still has them atop the NFC East. A .500 record is only good enough for third place for Chicago in the NFC North.
The Bears have to win this game to keep any playoff dreams alive. The Cowboys need the victory as well. They’re in first place in the division now, but they’re only one game ahead of the Eagles. Losing in Chicago could be the final death knell in Jason Garrett’s coaching coffin.
Oddsmakers expect the Cowboys to win the game as evidence by their installation as three-point favorites. That’s as much an indictment on the Bears’ offensive struggles as anything else. Mitchell Trubisky’s poor season has Matt Nagy searching for answers at quarterback. Expect that to be the issue that dominates the Bears’ offseason.
If you want to make the most well-informed bets possible on this game then you need to check out our exclusive StatsChecker site. This piece will give you five interesting nuggets on Thursday night’s clash, but it’s just an appetizer for the main course you can devour on the site.
1. The Bears start hot as underdogs
Chicago has managed to win the first quarter in five of their last six home games as underdogs. That isn’t a fluke. Nagy’s ability to script offensive plays to start the game is a real advantage for the Bears. Don’t be shocked if it gets them off to a relatively good start against the Dallas defense.
The big question is whether or not Garrett can get his offense off to a good start as well. Expect to see a lot of Ezekiel Elliott in the first quarter. That might not pay big dividends for Dallas early. It might, however, wear down the Chicago front when the fourth quarter comes along.
2. Amari Cooper has to play well for Dallas
Elliott is the most important player the Cowboys have on offense, but Cooper is the most important down field target available to Dak Prescott. Dallas cannot move the ball effectively against the Bears if he doesn’t emerge as a big factor.
Fortunately, he’s scored a touchdown in his team’s last two night games. That isn’t a dominant statistic, but it does show that he likes to pick up his play under the lights. A few big plays from Cooper could turn this game in Dallas’ favor.
3. The Bears are allergic to covering the spread
One of the more amazing stats available via Statschecker for this game is the fact that Chicago has failed to cover the spread in seven of their last eight games. To put it bluntly, three points might not be enough for them on Thursday night.
Trubisky is the big culprit here. To say that he’s been erratic would pay the former North Carolina star a pretty significant compliment. For large stretches of the season he’s been downright atrocious. If he plays poorly against Dallas, the Cowboys will cover with ease.
4. Allen Robinson is huge for the Bears
If Chicago is going to win this game, they will be forced to make some big plays in the passing game. Allen Robinson is their best hope at getting behind what has been a suspect Dallas secondary this season.
We don’t have any doubt that Robinson can get open over the top a few times. The question is whether or not Trubisky can make the Cowboys pay when he gets the opportunity. This is a feast or famine offense and Robinson embodies that. If you like the Bears to spring the upset, you should love Robinson in all fantasy formats. The fact that he’s scored a touchdown in each of his last two games might be a decent reason for some optimism.
5. 17.7 won’t be enough points
The Bears have way too much offensive talent to be averaging 17.7 points per game. That’s what they are producing this season though. Needless to say, they’ll need to best that number on Thursday night to get to 7-6 on the year.
One underrated match-up of the game will be Chicago’s attempt to run the ball on a talented Cowboys’ front seven. If Nagy can get things going on the ground, it goes a long way towards making Trubisky playable at quarterback. The Bears can’t line up and run it down Dallas’ throat, but there might be room on the edges to grind out some significant yardage.
Roll with the Cowboys to cover
Nagy is a better coach than Garrett, but the quarterback match-up goes too far in the other direction to trust Chicago. Prescott may not be a Pro Bowler, but he’s in a completely different tier than Trubisky. The Cowboys offense won’t put up massive numbers on Thursday night, but they won’t have to. Dallas will ride Chicago’s turnovers to a relatively easy win.