By Jake Perper, BearsBacker.com
The Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys will meet for the 23rd time ever on Monday night.
The Cowboys lead the all-time series 13-9. The last time these two teams squared off was in 2010, the Bears won 27-20 at Cowboys Stadium.
The Cowboys and Bears are very similar teams. They both have shaky offensive lines. They both have a solid pass rush and they both have quarterbacks that can roll out of the pocket.
The Cowboys’ defense is ranked first in the league, while its pass defense is second in the league allowing just 158 yards per game to opposing offenses.
The Bears are coming off a great defensive performance in a 23-6 win over St. Louis in Week Three. The Cowboys got by in Week Three, when they beat the Bucs 16-10 in Dallas.
Chicago has two key injuries in running back Matt Forte (ankle) and wide receiver Earl Bennett (hand). Benett is said to be game-time decision, while Forte is expected to active. If Bennett can’t play expect second-year receiver Dane Sanzenbacher to be active for the first time this season.
Dallas will be without three defensive starters against the Bears. Linebacker Anthony Spencer (shoulder), nose tackle Jay Ratliff (ankle), defensive tackle Kenyon Coleman (knee) have all been ruled out for tonight’s game.
The Bears will win if?
The Bears will win if Matt Forte is healthy and has 90+ rushing yards. His presence on the field is huge. He’s not only a great receiver out of the backfield, but he is a good blocker as well. If he can battle through pain and help the Bears win the time of possession battle that could lead to the Bears third win of the season.
The Bears will lose if?
The Bears will lose if the protection fails up front and the receivers don’t get separation forcing Jay Cutler to throw some bad passes. If Cutler throws three or more interceptions, the Bears could find themselves where they were in Week Two against Green Bay. They need to have a nice balance of run and pass on offense to control this game. The Cowboys secondary could prove to be good for the Bears.
Players Who Must Step Up:
1. Alshon Jeffery- The rookie has just six catches for 52 yards receiving over the past two games. He needs to step up. Brandon Marshall is going to be keyed in on by the Dallas secondary, so Jeffery could see some looks. Jeffery will have to match up against rookie Morris Claiborne, but he could make some big plays with a size advantage on the outside.
Prediction: Six catches, 68 yards.
2. Henry Melton-He’s second in the NFL in sacks among defensive tackles with three, but he was taken out of last week’s game against St. Louis. He has to make plays with Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije attacking on the edges with success this season. Melton could be in for a big night against a weak Cowboys offensive line.
Prediction: Five tackles, one sack.
3. D.J. Moore- He had a huge game against the Cowboys in 2010, reeling in his first two interceptions of his career. He’s averaged four interceptions over the past two seasons. He has been steady through the first three games, but this could be a breakout game for him. He tends to come up big in primetime games. Look for Moore to play well tonight.
Prediction: Four tackles, one interception.
The Dallas cornerbacks, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne against the Bears receivers is certainly a key matchup on Monday night.
Another matchup that could be key is the Bears defensive ends against Tony Romo.
Obviously the Bears will need to pressure Tony Romo in order to be successful, but they also need to contain him on roll-outs out of the pocket. Rookie defensive end Shea McClellin has arguably the best speed out of any of the Bears defenders, so he could be called upon in situations where Romo scrambles.
Stats & Stuff:
Jay Cutler is 6-7 in prime-time games as the Bears quarterback, posting a 4-1 record on Monday Night Football.
Final score prediction
Jake Perper: Chicago Bears 27, Dallas Cowboys 23.