What else is new? The Cowboys once again enter the month of December fighting for the NFC East division crown. It’s been a recurring theme, with the Cowboys collapsing each of the past 2-seasons.
Since Tony Romo took over as the Cowboys starting quarterback in 2006, he’s gone 11-15 in the season’s final month. Dallas though, has been hot and is seeking to win a season high three straight games.
The Bears continue to fight for its NFC North lives with Jay Cutler still recovering from an ankle injury. Chicago is just one game back of the first place Lions, but have lost 3 of 4 with Josh McCown behind center.
McCown’s played well though throwing for 9 touchdowns and just 1 interception in relief. The big questions going into this one are can Josh McCown hold the fort for one more week, and can the Cowboys finally have a successful December? It all commences on Monday Night.
The Cowboys offense is as healthy as its been all year. Miles Austin is finally back in the lineup, and DeMarco Murray is as healthy as he’s been. Dallas ranks 27th in rushing offense, but that ranking is deceiving when Murray is playing. Tony Romo will have a full array of weapons at his disposal and when that happens, Dallas’s offense can be as dangerous as any in the league. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten have combined for 15 touchdowns, and Cole Beasley Dwyane Harris are both explosive. It’s taken a long time, but the Cowboys finally have a balanced offense and aren’t relying on Romo to throw the ball 40-50 times per game lowering his chances of having that game-changing turnover.
Don’t sleep on Josh McCown, because if you do, he will beat you. McCown’s done much more than hold the fort while Chicago awaits the return of Jay Cutler and has accumulated a 103.6 rating his season. Alshon Jeffrey is coming off his best game of the year where he caught 12 passes for 249 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Vikings. Brandon Marshall has gone for over 100 receiving yards in 3 of the Bears last 5 games. Matt Forte is closing in on 1,000 yards rushing for the year, but last week was the first time since the first week of November that he eclipsed the 100-yards rushing mark. Chicago will certainly need a big game out of Forte expected to be in the low teen’s at kickoff.
Cowboys – Dallas’s offense is more balanced, and more unpredictable right now than the Bears. On paper the edge goes to the Cowboys, but in no way does that mean Tony Romo doesn’t have a typical December game in frigid Soldier Field.
Dallas’s defense under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has been abysmal this season. Jerry Jones even admitted it was a mistake firing Rob Ryan with the Cowboys ranking 2nd to last in passing yards allowed, and 5th worst allowing nearly 127 rushing yards per game. There is good news with star linebacker Sean Lee returning after missing the last 2-games, and the Cowboys could certainly use him to help slow down Matt Forte. Dallas has to be careful not to take Josh McCown lightly because he’s shown he can get the job done. Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick, with Morris Claiborne out, will have the difficult tasks of trying to slow down Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall.
The Bears defense has had its own problems. Chicago ranks dead last in the NFL giving up over 150 rushing yards per game. Look for Jason Garrett to use a heavy dose of DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar who’s coming off his best game of the year against the Raiders on Thanksgiving day. Murray and Dunbar are both averaging over 5-yards per carry and the Bears will once again be without Lance Briggs. If Chicago has plans on slowing down Tony Romo, Julius Peppers and company have to make him as uncomfortable as possible. The Bears have recorded just 24 sacks this season, and Romo will shred them if he has time in the pocket.
Even – Neither of these match-ups are particularly favorable for either defense. Chicago can’t stop the run and DeMarco Murray is poised to have a monster game. The Cowboys…well they can’t do anything right defensively.
Kicker: Dan Bailey vs. Robbie Gould
Punter: Chris Jones vs. Adam Podlesh
Return Man: Dwyane Harris vs. Devin Hester
With the Bears playoff hopes hanging in the balance, Robbie Gould chose a bad time to have the worst game of his season last week against the Vikings. Gould missed two of his three field goal attempts on the season, including a potential game winning 47-yard kick in overtime. Dan Bailey has been scorching hot for the Cowboys and he hasn’t missed a kick since September.
In the punting game, Cowboys punter Chris Jones has the stronger leg averaging four more yards per punt than his counterpart Adam Podlesh. But while Podlesh’s leg isn’t as strong, he’s only punted one ball into the end-zone. Jones has 5 touchbacks in comparison.
In the return game, both Dwayne Harris and Devin Hester have one return touchdown on the season. As everyone knows in the NFL, Hester is the greatest return man to ever do it with 18 career return touchdown. Harris has just 2 in 3 years.
Cowboys – It usually takes a little bit of time for kickers to get out of cold streaks, and Robbie Gould could very well likely be in a mental funk right now after what happened last week. That’s why the special teams edge for this game belongs to the Cowboys.
The Cowboys are playing the teams best football of the year, everyone is back healthy, and give me Tony Romo over Josh McCown.
Cowboys 21 Bears 20