Houston Travels to Chicago on Sunday Night For the Game of the Week

In what is undoubtedly the best game of the week and perhaps the best of the season, the 7-1 Houston Texans travel to Chicago to take on the 7-1 Bears for a Sunday night game for the ages. The Bears are favored by two points, though in light of the recent presidential election, you might say it’s too close to call. The two teams could not be more evenly matched, pitting great run defenses and great running games against each other.

“(The Bears) are very well-built in what they do and they’ve been together for a long time,” Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. “What they’re doing speaks for itself. We have a serious task ahead of us… It’s kind of a strength against a strength. Hopefully we can hold up our end of the bargain.”

Indeed, these teams would seem to be in a dead heat in most statistical categories. The Texans are eighth in the league in rushing yards, second in rush defense and fourth in pass defense. The Bears, meanwhile, are sixth against the rush and 16th against the pass. Even the team’s offensive weapons and statistics stack up favorably to each other; Arian Foster and Matt Forte have similar running styles, while both Houston’s Andre Johnson and Chicago’s Brandon Marshall are big, physical wide receivers that can dominate the red zone. This game could really be like watching a chess master play round after round against himself.

However, the advantage that might decide the game resides on the offensive line; the Houston Texans have only given up ten sacks this year, tied for fewest in the AFC, while the Bears offense line has been porous at best, allowing 28 sacks, third-most in the league. Houston defensive lineman J.J. Watt, a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate, could have a huge game in this one. He already has 10.5 sacks this year along with 10 passes defended (his nickname: J.J. “Swat”, naturally).

Still, the Bears defense, led by Hall of Fame-caliber defensive end Julius Peppers and defensive back Charles Tillman (himself a Defensive Player of the Year candidate) straight up get after the ball. They have forced an NFL-leading 28 turnovers, and lead the NFL in scoring defense at 15 points per game. “I don’t want the guys to start thinking, `Hey, let’s hold on, something bad’s going to happen,” Smith said. “We’re a good football team. We’re excited about playing the Texans. I see our team getting better and better. We haven’t peaked yet.”

As good as the Chicago Bears are, particularly their swarming defense, I love the Houston Texans in this one. They will be facing cold weather and a hostile Bears crowd, both primary reasons why they’re underdogs in this match, but the Texans simply haven’t shown any reason this year why they shouldn’t be favored in a game. According to a Houston Chronicle blogger who looked up some of the Texans’ stars’ perforances in cold weather, all fare slightly worse in the cold.

“Andre Johnson has had slightly lower numbers across the board in all categories, and has caught just three touchdowns in 15 cold-weather games,” said Eric Berger, a science blogger for the site. “Matt Schaub’s yardage is better, but his touchdown-to-interception ratio is markedly worse in cold-weather. Arian Foster’s numbers are generally worse and Owen Daniels’ are slightly better.”

The Texans getting blown out by Green Bay lingers in Vegas’ mind, but outside of that game they have been sensational every time they’ve taken the field. The Bears, meanwhile, outside of a blowout against the Titans last weekend, have looked decidedly unimpressive. Their offense has struggled, and if Houston can leap out to an early lead, they could play conservatively and run Chicago into the ground. I love the Texans at +2 here, even on a cold night in Chi-Town.

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