The Chicago Bears entered the regular season as something of a blank slate. While they had a lot of individual talented players in Alshon Jeffery, Kyle Long, Danny Trevathan and Kyle Fuller, their overall roster was a muddled mystery box that could either surprise people, or completely collapse.
After two games, the latter scenario now looks like a reality. The Bears went on Monday Night Football and stank up the joint, putting in a dismal effort against the Philadelphia Eagles to fall to 0-2 on the season. To make matters worse, the injury bug bit them hard and now their team is perilously thin at important positions.
The most high-profile injury was at quarterback, where Jay Cutler suffered a sprained thumb on his throwing hand. He's listed as doubtful this week, but there's zero chance Cutler will play. Brian Hoyer is getting the start this week, and while he's shown flashes of competence over the years, no team should feel good about starting Hoyer in 2016.
However, the bigger injury concern is on defense. Trevathan, signed to a four-year, $24.5 million deal in the offseason, also suffered a thumb injury Monday night. He will undergo surgery, and while Trevathan is expected to be back sometime this season, he's out for the near future and that's a huge blow to a Chicago defense that was already struggling.
The hits don't end there. Jeffery missed practice time with a knee injury this week and is questionable for Sunday night. He could end up playing, but the Bears' offense is in deep trouble with Jeffery less than 100 percent. Fuller is still recovering from an August knee surgery and has yet to make his season debut. These are all pivotal players who are either out or could be limited. Things could get worse before they get better for John Fox and his crew.
The Cowboys also have injury problems, but they seem to be doing okay for now. Dak Prescott has done an admirable job filling in for Tony Romo, and while he hasn't blown up the stat sheet (no touchdowns and just 6.9 yards per attempt in the first two games), he's doing enough to keep the offense functional. Prescott is also developing more chemistry with Dez Bryant, who had seven catches for 102 yards against Washington last week after being quiet in Week 1.
Dallas would like to see more from Ezekiel Elliott. The No. 4 overall pick is getting the workhorse treatment, but he hasn't quite lived up to his billing yet. Elliott has 41 carries for just 134 yards, averaging a worrying 3.3 yards per carry. He also lost two fumbles in Week 2, which may end up being a fluke (Elliott famously never had a fumble in 650 touches at Ohio State). Elliott still has all the potential in the world, but his first two NFL games have been less inspiring. If there's ever a week for him to get going, it's against this Bears defense. Look for the Cowboys to continue leaning on him.
The Cowboys have a lot be excited about, though they're still smarting from a tough Week 1 loss to the New York Giants. The Bears are a team in shambles, and unless Fox pulls a miracle out of his hat, Dallas should be 2-1 heading into a Week 4 contest with the San Francisco 49ers. The schedule is setting up favorably for the Cowboys, so if they avoid any letdowns they'll be in good shape in the NFC playoff picture.
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Place: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, MIchele Tafoya
The Cowboys opened as 4-point favorites, according to OddsShark. The line has since ballooned to 7 and 7.5 on various betting sites as the Bears' injury list grew longer.
Normally I try to at least make a case for why a big underdog might have a fighting chance, but ... yeah, I don't see where the Bears get a win here. They have too many injuries at too many key positions, and they were already looking iffy before that. The Cowboys will probably stick to a meat-and-potatoes game plan, using Elliott and a short passing game to control the clock and win the field position battle. I don't expect a total blowout, but the Cowboys should hold a comfortable lead throughout. Cowboys 24, Bears 13
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