The 7-5 Dallas Cowboys visit the 6-6 Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in a game between two NFC teams currently on the outside looking in at the 2013 NFL playoffs on Monday Night Football. Dallas now finds themselves a half game behind Philadelphia in the NFC East after the Eagles defeated Detroit 34-20 in the snow for their fifth straight win and seventh in their last nine games; the Cowboys are also a game and a half behind Carolina and San Francisco in the wild card race. Despite losing three of their last four, Chicago is only a half game behind the Lions in the NFC South due to that loss in Philly, which was Detroit’s third in their last four games.

Looking ahead each of these teams will continue to impact one another’s playoff chances after this game. Dallas hosts Green Bay next week, who is 6-6-1 in the NFC North before finishing up with division games at Washington and then home against the Eagles for what is shaping up to be an NFC East-deciding game. Chicago goes on the road at Cleveland and Philadelphia – the game against the Eagles will be their fourth road game in five weeks – before finishing up with what may be another title clinching game, home against the Packers.

Dallas Cowboys (7-5) at Chicago Bears (6-6) ★★★★
Monday night on ESPN; Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden

QB Josh McCown has been exceptional in the six games he has played in, and will get his fifth start of the season for the Bears. McCown has completed over 63% of his passes in all but one game this season and has thrown nine touchdowns with just one pick this year, averaging just a hair under eight yards per pass attempt. He and WR Alshon Jeffrey, who went for an incredible 249 yards receiving last week, have developed a very nice chemistry. Jeffrey now ranks 4th in the NFL with 1,109 yards receiving, and he and McCown will be licking their chops as they go up against a Dallas defense that ranks last in total yards (422), 31st in passing yards (295), and 25th in yards per pass (7.7). Although the Dallas defense has been a sieve, they will receive a major boost with the return of LB Sean Lee; their D took a noticeable nosedive in his absence the last two weeks against teams that they should not have struggled with.

The problem for the Bears is that their 2013 defense is nothing like we have grown accustomed to seeing the past few years. Chicago is actually giving up more points per game (27.7 ppg, 28th in the NFL) than Dallas, and the Cowboys could very well take advantage of that; they have scored at least 30 points six times this year. While the Bears are still very good at forcing turnovers (23, 7th best), they just can’t seem to stop a nosebleed – especially on the ground. Chicago’s defense is dead last in yards per carry (5.0) and rushing yards per game (154), so Dallas should be able to gash the Bears’ with DeMarco Murray (697 yards rushing, 4.9 yards per carry) to set up play action passes. With so many of the Bears’ top starters (Lance Briggs, DJ Williams, Henry Melton, Peanut Tillman, Nate Collins) out on defense, Tony Romo (65% completion rate, 262 passing yards per game, 24 touchdown passes with only 7 interceptions), Murray (3 touchdowns last week) and WR Dez Bryant (9 TD) should put up too many points for McCown and the Bears to overcome.

Pick • Upset: Cowboys 31, Bears 28
Cowboys +1½
over 48 (one unit)




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