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NFC North: Week 10 Preview and Point Spreads

Detroit Lions (-1) at Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EST

The league’s worst special teams coverage versus one of the best return units could make for a long day for the Detroit Lions. However, Minnesota has looked like it’s tearing apart at the seams while Detroit has been playing solid football. Take the Lions here. Now let’s get to the real highlight of the week in the NFC North…

Houston Texans (+1) at Chicago Bears, Sunday, 8:20 p.m. EST

And here we are, the best game of the week! Nay, the year! Two 7-1 teams, both looking to prove that they are the best in their respective conferences. This will truly be a sensational match. Both teams have similar strengths and weaknesses (they both have great defenses, a solid running game and rely on the play action pass).

The difference, however, is that when the Bears defense gets turnovers, they simply score them; the Bears D has scored touchdowns at a furious clip this season. The Bears are stingy against the run, ranked sixth in the NFL and only allowing 88 rushing yards a game. Houston, meanwhile, has one of the most explosive running attacks in the league, ranked eighth in the NFL with 138 rushing yards per game. As the saying goes, something has to give, and I believe it’s the Bears. However, these 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.”

This line started at -2 for Chicago, and has been bet down to -1. People like the Texans, and I’m one of them. Look for the Texans to squeak out a narrow win here. Take them and the point.

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