The (7-1) Houston Texans travel to the daunting Soldier Field to take on the (7-1) Chicago Bears in what could be a preview of the 2012 Superbowl (8.20pm ET Sunday).
Both the Bears and Texans have played fantastically this year, doing so with dynamite offenses and shutdown defenses. As a result, this game could end up being one of the most highly contested all season.
Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall Are A Deadly Duo in Chicago
Back during their Denver days from 2006-08, quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall were one of the best tandems in the NFL. The talented and reliable Marshall soon became Cutler’s security blanket as the two connected for over 200 receptions, 2,000+ yards and 15 touchdowns.
Cutler was the first to leave Denver, doing so following the 2008 season. He was traded to the Bears and in 2009, had a career high with 27 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. He also threw for 3,666 yards but helped Chicago to just a 7-9 record.
With former Broncos Kyle Orton throwing him the football, Marshall to set a career high, catching 10 receptions for touchdowns. It also marked the third straight season in which Marshall eclipsed 100 receptions.
After unsuccessful years with the Miami Dolphins and Cutler with the Bears, the two found themselves reunited. Cutler quickly found himself settled and that has helped him improve and Marshall has once again become the reliable and go-to target. In fact, with the numbers the two have already put up, both could be looking at setting new career standards.
Of Cutler’s twelve touchdown passes this season, seven of them have gone to his 6’4 Pro-Bowl wide receiver. In addition, Cutler has targeted Marshall an incredible 90 times in eight games with Marshall catching 59 of this passes. This makes for an average of about 7.3 catches a game. On the season, Marshall ranks second in the NFL with 797 yards and is third with his seven total TDs. He is second in yards per game, finishing just a few ticks under 100 yards per contest.
Of course, all of this is made possible by Cutler, who has no problem throwing to Marshall in any kind of coverage. He has trusted his wide receiver and as result, balls going toward Marshall have rarely resulted in drops and have yet to result in a turnover.
This is important because the Texans boast the fourth best mark, allowing just 203.8 passing yards a game to opposing offenses. Unfortunately for the Bears, Cutler, Marshall and the rest have only been able to muster the 29th best passing offense with under 200 yards a game. This match-up therefore could have Marshall frustrated but with the way he has played this season, he still has a good shot to get balls thrown his way, especially in the endzone.
Finding A Way to Stifle the Running Game of (TEX) Arian Foster
For as good as Marshall has been in Chicago, running back Arian Foster has been even better in Houston. The just 26-year-old coming back-to-back 1,200 yard seasons is looking even better in 2012. He is well on pace to break 1,000 yards again and could potentially top his career high with 1,616 yards as well.
In eight games this season, Foster has attacked every rushing defense he has faced and has won. He leads the league with 24 rushing attempts a game and is fifth with his total of 770 rushing yards on the season. He is fourth, averaging 96.3 yards a game and leads the league with his ten touchdowns.
Foster has helped the Texans to eighth in the league in rushing yards. That said, he has really not had to face a defensive line that has forced the most turnovers this year and that ranks sixth in allowing just 88 yards a game to opposing teams’ rushers.
(HOU) JJ Watt and (CHI) Charles Tillman: Masters of their Craft
In just his second year in the league, 23-year-old JJ Watt, is showing what commitment, hard work and dedication can do. In the process, he has surprised just about everyone except himself with what he has been able to do this year.
Watt leads the league with 10.5 sacks and has been an absolute force when it comes to attacking the quarterback. Because of his success teams and their offensive lines have really had to step up their game.
For Chicago, this certainly does not bode well. Not only is Jay Cutler one of the league’s more easily sacked quarterbacks, but their offensive line is a bit of a weak spot. On the season, this offense has given up 28 sacks, something that projects well for Watt and his season totals.
Slightly older and with a little more wear and tear on his body, Bears’ corner back Charles Tillman is still managing to put up career numbers. The 10 year veteran, has already surpassed his career high of forced fumbles. With seven, he leads the league in this category.
Tillman anchors a Bears’ defense that has excelled in forcing turnovers this year. Tillman himself has forced nine while also recording 43 tackles in the backfield. He has been a big part of what Chicago has been able to do this season and is a definite candidate for defensive player of the year.
Houston Texans v Chicago Bears Betting Picks Verdict
Both Houston and Chicago boast stellar defenses, each excelling in different categories. The Texans have been efficient in stopping the run and the pass while the Bears have allowed their fair share of total yards, but have far and away forced the most turnovers in the league. The match-up should no doubt be a defensive struggle but both teams also have offensive cogs that can really light up the field and the scoreboard.
- The Bears are favored on the spread by just one point, but take Houston +1 point @ odds of +100 with BetOnline Sportsbook (it is -110 with Bovada).
- Also, because of these two dominant defenses, bet on the under at 40 @ -110 with BetOnline (it is -115 with Bovada).
- NOTE to Non-Americans: Place these bets with Bet365.