The last time the Texans faced a good NFC North team on Sunday Night Football, it didn't go so well. I believe most fans look at the loss to the Packers as kind of a fluke, as just one of those down games all teams will suffer at some point during the season instead of a sign of serious problems and flaws on the team. While it may have been just a 'let down game', the Chicago Bears present some of the same problems that were exposed in the Texans only loss so far this season. The Bears have talented weapons on offense, a physical, play making defense, and a great home field advantage; that all adds up to possibly their toughest test of the season.
Matt Forte Vs. Texans Run Defense
As I've mentioned in several articles this season, the Texans have been suspect at times against the run but it hasn't hurt them yet because they've blown out almost every opponent. Reggie Bush ran for 4.9 yards per carry, Maurice Jones-Drew ran for five yards a carry, and Ray Rice ran for 4.6 yards per carry, but none of them topped 100 yards because the Texans were up by an average of 21 points on each of their teams by halftime and they had to abandon the run in the second half. Even Chris Johnson who had 45 rushing yards in his first three games combined, ran for 141 yards against the Texans in their week four game. Even if the Texans win the game, I doubt they'll blow out the Bears and take away the option of running the ball. If they don't play the run any better on Sunday, especially right up the gut, then Matt Forte could have a huge game and neutralize the Texans pass rush.
Hit Jay Cutler Early and Often
The Bears offense can be one of the better offenses in the league when they're in a rhythm, but it's hard to be in rhythm when you're getting hit every play. The Bears rank 30th in the league this season in sacks allowed (28), and 28th in QB hits allowed (48). In what would have been a major upset, the Bears needed a game winning field goal as time expired to beat the 1-6 Carolina Panthers; they allowed six sacks on Jay Cutler in that game. In their only loss this season, the Bears allowed seven sacks and were held under 200 yards of offense against Green Bay. Jay Cutler has been sacked on 10.37% of his pass attempts; the worst in the league. On the opposite side of that, the Texans have sacked the opposing quarterback on 8% of the opposing teams attempted pass plays; the third best percentage in the league. Not reinventing the wheel here, the key is clear; the Texans must pressure Jay Cutler consistently to win this game.
Stretch Run Plays
The Bears defense presents several problems this week, but in particular I think penetration up the middle when the Texans try to run the ball could be a problem. The Bears have several veteran, physical defenders who know how to set the edge on the run, funnel everything back inside, and rally to the ball carrier. On top of that, Henry Melton has done a great job at getting penetration inside from his defensive tackle spot (has five sacks this season) which can blow up any running game. There is a formula to stop the Texans style of zone blocking running game and the Bears have the players to pull it off. Expect the Texans to face eight man boxes and a defender lined up directly over each Texans offensive lineman. The Texans will have to run the ball effectively to win the game, they can't become one-dimensional and hold up against the Bears pass rush.