The battle of one-loss teams in Week 10 is undoubtedly the game of the week as the 7-1 Houston Texans will travel to face the 7-1 Chicago Bears. Both teams enter the game with top five scoring offenses and defenses, while the sole blemish on both teams' records are losses to the Green Bay Packers.
After losing to the Packers on a disastrous Thursday Night Football game in Week 2 that featured four interceptions thrown by Jay Cutler as he was sacked seven times, the Bears have since won six straight. The Texans, on the other hand, started their season with wins of more than 20 points or more in three of their first four weeks before giving up six passing touchdowns to Aaron Rodgers in Week 6. They have since recovered with dominating victories over the Ravens and Bills.
Meet the Bears
The stats are a little deceiving for the Bears offensively, as they have scored the third most points per game in the NFL, but rank No. 25 in offensive yardage. Much of their point scoring has had to do with a defense that has managed to force 28 turnovers and return seven interceptions for touchdowns. With so many points scored by the defense and consistent good field position, the offense has needed much yardage to win games. That doesn't mean they haven't been effective, as Brandon Marshall is on pace to break every major receiving record for the team in his first year with the Bears. He and Jay Cutler have combined 59 times for 797 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games.
But the true story of the Bears is undoubtedly their defense. While they're just outside the top five in yards allowed, the Bears defense has held three teams to seven points or less. The true story of their success has been their ability to make the big play and force turnovers. With 28 turnovers forced in eight games, the Bears are only slightly off the record-pace of 66 turnovers forced by the Chargers defense in 1961. They've already broken the franchise record for interceptions returned for touchdowns, though, by bringing back seven.
Meet the Texans
While the Texans have a quarterback with a 96.8 quarterback rating, one of the NFL's best receivers in Andre Johnson and other talented receivers like Owen Daniels, Kevin Walter and Keshawn Martin, they are predominantly a run-the-ball, stop-the-run team. While Ben Tate will be out for Sunday night's game, the Texans have leaned on the play of Arian Foster who has rushed for 10 touchdowns in 2012. Foster's 96.3 yards per game is the fourth most in the league and 12 rushing touchdowns for the team is the most in the NFL.
On defense, the Texans have yet to allow a rushing touchdown, while also ranking fourth at stopping the pass. While their offense ranks as the best in the league at not turning the ball over, unlike the Bears they've been just an average team at forcing turnovers. Instead they've played fundamentally sound football and forced an average of six punts per game.
Local Takes: Bears
Dave Gilbert from Windy City Gridiron says Charles Tillman deserves praise, not criticism for his decision to put family before football, if necessary.
Playing football in the NFL is a job just like any other. We are constantly reminded that the league is a business, with players holding out for copious amounts of money, gently telling us it's nothing personal; I just gotta get paid. But that borders on greed a lot of the time, and Tillman wanting to be at the birth of his child is not greedy in the slightest.
Local Takes: Texans
TexansDC from Battle Red Blog says that there's no reason for the Texans to fear the Bears, considering that they made it to 7-1 after winning six-straight against a fairly easy schedule:
...lets take a look at their opponents on that six-game winning streak: St. Louis, Dallas, Jacksonville, Detroit, Carolina, and Tennessee. Not exactly a murderer's row, but that lackluster six weeks is not any reason to fear them. Respect them? Yes. 7-1 is 7-1 is 7-1, and they are scoring in all phases of the game, but there should be no fear or panic that Houston is outclassed before the game has even begun.
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
Texans SB Nation blog, Battle Red Blog: @BattleRedBlog
Bears SB Nation blog, Windy City Gridiron: @Official_WCG
Dear lord, want to see an embarrassing Twitter feed?Check out this one that appears to be Mike Vick's brother: @mvfive— Windy City Gridiron (@Official_WCG) November 6, 2012
Texans beat writer, Tania Ganguli: @TaniaGanguli
Bears beat writer, Michael C. Wright: @MikeCWright
Record in picks is same as Bears record. What's that say? That I've picked Bears every time. But the 1 time u don't. Haha.— Michael C. Wright (@mikecwright) November 9, 2012
The game of the week right here. The Texans are SB Nation's second-ranked team while the Bears are third. They're the two contenders behind the undefeated Falcons. Both teams are very similar, which makes this a hard game to pick. When in doubt, we'll roll with the home team, which is a one-point favorite in Chicago.
The pick: 20-19, Bears
While some sports books have the two teams as even, most have the Bears as one-point favorites for Sunday night, according the OddsShark.
The Texans will host the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars as they'll look to win a fifth straight against the divisional opponent. The Bears will travel to face one of the NFC's better teams when they go across the country to play the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football.