For once, NFL fans get a Thursday Night Football game that might mean something. Sort of. Week 14’s edition of TNF has the Chicago Bears hosting the Dallas Cowboys, with Dallas needing a big win to keep up with the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears are just about dead when it comes to the playoffs, but this is a huge game for the ‘Boys and could be a nice little shootout with two talented offenses gracing the field.
Let’s take a look at the key notes going into this game and also come away with a pick for the night:
Running the Table
While it’s extremely unlikely, the Bears actually aren’t dead just yet. If they win here at home tonight against what could quite easily be a crumbling Dallas team, they’d own the tiebreaker over the Cowboys. Suddenly Chicago would be 6-7 and Dallas would be 8-5, with three games to go. If the Cowboys could even lose two more games and the Bears could run the table, they’d earn a wild card playoff spot over Dallas. That’s if it came down to just them for the final spot, of course.
Detroit is likely the other team that Chicago would have to fend off, but they do get to face them one more time. If they could win that game and split the season series with the Lions, and Detroit also loses just two more times other than their defeat to the Bears, they also would finish at 9-7 and Chicago would potentially be awarded the tiebreaker there, as well. The Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals also could all factor in, but if the 49ers fall apart and tie with Chicago, the Bears would sneak in over them due to a win against Jim Harbaugh’s crew earlier in the year. As for Seattle and Arizona, the hope would be the Seahawks end San Francisco’s division title hopes in week 15 and that the Cards continue their complete unraveling thanks to Carson Palmer going down.
It’s a lot to take in, but a talented Chicago team that looks dead actually has some realistic life. All of those things collectively falling into place isn’t that realistic, but the Cowboys, Lions and Cardinals taking a nose dive individually is not crazy in the least. With the potential edge over Dallas, Detroit and San Francisco, Chicago just needs to win their next four games and hope the rest of the cards fall in their favor. In other words, tonight’s game is pretty big for them and could spark a magical run.
Run, DeMarco, Run
While the Bears may have thoughts of running the table, Dallas is probably licking their chops over how much DeMarco Murray can run through and over them. Murray has topped 100 rushing yards in 10 of 12 games this season. When he does that, Dallas is 8-2. Naturally, we can all expect to see a heavy dose of Murray early and often. Against Chicago’s weak run defense, that should equate to good things for the Cowboys, who struggled to run the ball or do anything right in a home blowout loss last week.
Romo vs. Cutler
Tony Romo and Jay Cutler are two of the more talented quarterbacks in the league, as both tend to put up nice numbers on a regular basis. They’re also two of the more disappointing quarterbacks, as they have one career playoff win between them, have dealt with nagging injuries and despite their talent have come up short countless times in their career. It’s always a treat when they butt heads, so we can probably expect a shootout in the end, even though Dallas would probably prefer to pound the rock.
Where’s the Defense?
Both teams would love to establish the run and set up the pass for some big shots down the field. It’s possible they both make it happen, as neither of these defenses are particularly good. However, the key to this Thursday Night Football clash is probably going to be which defense can make something happen. Both units have been extremely shaky in every regard this year, so that’s a true toss up.
Chicago is at home, but that hasn’t meant much with the Bears going just 2-3 on their own field this year. However, if they’re going to make a run, it’s probably nice that this game and two of their other final four contests are at Soldier Field. While that could potentially spark the crazy run mentioned previously, it’s hard to bet against a Cowboys team that is 8-4, appears to be more disciplined and still has a much more attainable path to the playoffs.
Pick: Cowboys 27, Bears 24