Big Picture: Cowboys Still in First Place of Division

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The Cowboys have lost two straight games to fall to 6-6. Yet, they enter the final month of the season with a one-game lead in the NFC East, thanks to a loss by the Eagles in Miami.

Philadelphia sits at 5-7, one game behind the Cowboys and the two teams will meet again in Philly on Dec. 22.

As for the Bears, Chicago is also at 6-6 but not in as good a shape in their division.

Here are five quick storylines for each team to get us ready for the matchup Thursday night in Chicago.

Bears

  • The Bears are coming off a big Thanksgiving Day win over the Lions, improving to 6-6 and keeping their slim playoff hopes alive. Unlike the Cowboys, who are tied for first in the division at 6-6, the Bears are three games behind division-leading Green Bay (9-3) and Minnesota is 8-3 heading into Monday night. Still, the Bears are not eliminated from contention and will likely bring that playoff intensity and atmosphere on Thursday to Soldier Field, where the Cowboys haven’t played since 2014.* Just as Dak Prescott did against the Lions in Detroit two weeks ago, Mitchell Tribusky had a big passing day, particularly on first down. The Bears’ quarterback was 17 of 19 on first downs in the Thanksgiving Day win over the Lions. Overall, he was 29 of 38 for 338 with 3 TDs, one interception for a 118.1 QB rating. His second-highest of the season, only behind the first meeting with the Lions when he posted 131.0 in a seven-point win.
  • Overall, the Bears have been one of the NFL’s worst offenses this year, entering the weekend ranked 29th in total yards and 29th in scoring at 17.7 points per game. The 24 points scored in the game is just the third-most by the Bears this season.
  • The Bears are just an all-around great defense in just about every category. In overall yards allowed, Chicago ranks fifth at 319.7 yards per game. They are eighth against the run and ninth against the pass and in terms of points allowed, the Bears rank fourth in the NFL, allowing just 17.3 points per game. Khalil Mack has 6.5 sacks this year but is tied for the NFL lead with five forced fumbles.
  • Rookie running back David Montgomery had his second-best day of his career Thursday in Detroit, rushing for 75 yards with a 4.69 yard average per carry. The Bears have had split running back duties this year with Tarik Cohen, who has been more of a scat-back and receiving threat. Montgomery has 594 rushing yards with five touchdowns this season. His rushing total ranks second among all NFL rookies behind only Josh Jacobs (957) of the Raiders.

Cowboys

  • Shockingly, the Cowboys are still in first place of the NFC East by a full game. Philadelphia couldn’t take advantage of the Cowboys’ two-game losing streak as the Eagles lost on the road to the Dolphins, 37-31. The Cowboys have four games to play – at Chicago, LA Rams, at Philly and Washington to close out the season.* The Cowboys worked out three kickers on Sunday, although it’s unlikely they will make any changes this week. Brett Maher is expected to remain the Cowboys’ kicker despite missing two field goals last Thursday against the Bills. The Cowboys will likely use the tryout to get a better feel for the free-agent market if they decide to make a change later this season.
  • The Cowboys will likely be without both linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck) and DT Antwaun Woods (knee) for another game. But there’s a chance that Jeff Heath (shoulder) can return. Michael Bennett is dealing with a foot injury and Amari Cooper suffered a bruised knee but both are expected to play this week.
  • The Cowboys might have one of the most potent offenses in the NFL this year, but against the best defenses, it has been a different story. The Cowboys are 0-4 against the 10 best defenses in the league. Dallas lost to the Bills this past Thursday, and will face No. 5 ranked Chicago this week.
  • Special teams has remained a big problem for the Cowboys, especially in the last few games. Against Buffalo on Thursday, the Cowboys had two missed field goals, including one that was blocked. There has been a blocked punt at New England that led to a score, coupled with big returns on kickoffs and punts in the previous two games.

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