The Dallas Cowboys are finally starting to look good. But just a good November won’t cut it. A good December is needed for them to make the playoffs. In what has been one of the weakest NFC East division races in years, the Cowboys have not been able to lay claim to the division. After yesterday’s victory against the Detroit Lions, the Eagles improved to 8-5. With a win on Monday night against the Bears, the Cowboys can move right back to first place in the division. Despite losing to the Minnesota Vikings last week, the Bears still present a tough challenge for the Dallas Cowboys.
In this segment called Upon Further Review, I will take a look at the biggest challenge the Cowboys will have for this week’s matchup.
The main problem the Cowboys will face will be the Cowboys’ secondary versus Chicago’s receivers. The Bears are without their starting quarterback Jay Cutler. But Josh McCown is playing well in his absence. In my article last week, I mentioned the differences between Cutler’s and McCown’s passer ratings this year. When being the starter this year, McCown’s passer rating is significantly better than Cutler’s.
Chicago has three receivers that are all taller than 6’3″. In fact, two of those receivers may go on to the Pro Bowl this year. Brandon Marshall & Alshon Jeffery have had excellent years opposite of each other. Marshall has always been a stud dating back to his days in Denver & Miami. But, Jeffery is really coming into his own this year. The second year man out of South Carolina has over 1,100 yards and 5 touchdowns. Marshall is having another great year in the NFL. The veteran has just under 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns. Add in Martellus Bennett who is also a huge target, the Bears could hurt the Cowboys in many ways.
Dallas doesn’t have a player in the secondary taller than 6’2″. Obviously, Brandon Carr will be shadowing Brandon Marshall the whole game. This is something Brandon Marshall does not want to hear. Marshall has already stated his disinterest towards his tango with Carr. Starting opposite of Carr will be Orlando Scandrick, who has enjoyed an excellent year. According to PFF, Orlando Scandrick is only giving up 0.71 yards per route, which is best for fourth in league. Morris Claiborne is already ruled out this week. Claiborne re-injured himself against the Giants in week 11, which also kept him out of week 12′s matchup against the Raiders.
One way the Cowboys can lock up Chicago’s receivers is by bumping them at the line of scrimmage. In 2013, the Cowboys have played zone more than man. Last year, Carr & Claiborne thrived under a man scheme. If the Cowboys’ secondary can press Marshall & Jeffery at the line of scrimmage, this can help the Cowboys’ chance of winning in the Windy City.
Another way Dallas can shut down the Bears’ receivers is by getting pressure on Josh McCown. Since their games against Washington & Philadelphia, the Cowboys have recorded just six sacks in the past five games. With all of the injuries to this defensive line, the Cowboys have gotten the best out of players off the street. Guys such as Jarius Wynn, Everette Brown, and Corvey Irwin have given it their all. But sometimes, it isn’t enough. DeMarcus Ware has stated this week that he now has his strength back. If Ware is able to get pressure, it will be easier for the secondary to defend against the pass. Jason Hatcher & DeMarcus Ware can still get pressure, despite being consistently double-teamed.
Dallas goes into this game as an underdog with a 2.5 spread. By logic, this team is a better team than the Bears. The Cowboys will have to play in Soldier Field’s conditions. But, this is a different team from the past. With the returns from key players like Sean Lee & Dwayne Harris, Dallas should enter Tuesday morning with an 8-5 record. The Cowboys have a chance to go 4-0 in December. They can put their best foot forward with a big win on Monday Night Football.