The Cowboys couldn't have asked for much more than going 2-0 without their star linebacker. But they should be getting Sean Lee back for this Monday night matchup against the Bears, and make no mistake – even if they succeeded without him, it'll be a monumental boost to have their leader back in the middle. With Lee out, Barry Church took over the team's lead in tackles as he moved up into the box to make up for the gigantic loss in the middle. But Lee still leads the team with four interceptions and is second in tackles despite missing two games with the hamstring injury.rtmp://cp177514.live.edgefcs.net/live/liveTalkinCowboys1a@73747
Lee's not the only "hamstrung" player on the team. It seems the bevy of defensive line injuries have now moved to other positions. It'll be a close call to see if elite special teamer Dwayne Harris can suit up in time. The early prognosis on Morris Claiborne after the cornerback re-aggravated his previous hamstring injury isn't too positive, but linebacker Justin Durant believes he'll be back this week. That should make for an interesting competition for playing time at the strong side linebacker spot, as Kyle Wilber excelled in his return to linebacker from defensive end while Durant's been out. Wilber's tallied 11 tackles and a fumble recovery the last two weeks, and he could stay in that starting role if he keeps playing the way he has.
Despite getting blown out by the Bears, both Dez Bryant and Jason Witten ended that day with big games statistically going for more than 100 yards apiece. The Cowboys have done a better job in recent weeks of getting both of those playmakers involved, but in the likely freezing temperatures in Chicago this weekend, there figures to be a heavier dose of the running game and DeMarco Murray. The news that Lance Dunbar's out for the year after knee surgery following his breakout performance against the Raiders is a big blow to the Cowboys' backfield. He provided the spark the team had been looking for as a change of pace back. Count on a heavy dose of Murray going forward.
Josh McCown's been as solid as backups come at quarterback taking over for the injured Jay Cutler, but the wins just haven't followed for the Bears. McCown's gotten the ball out quickly and has nine touchdown passes and just one interception since getting playing time the last six weeks. Scoring points hasn't been the problem, as the Bears have at least 20 points in all but two games this year, but they're 2-4 in their last six games as they've fallen to 6-6 overall while competing in one of the tougher divisions in football in the NFC North. [embedded_ad]
The Bears could get back Cutler, who threw for 275 yards on 18-of-24 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions last year against the Cowboys, but the offense has been fine with McCown. The new quarterback's developed a nice rapport with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who's coming off a 249-yard performance. The rookie had just 367 receiving yards and three touchdowns his rookie year, but this season he's already surpassed the 1,000-yard mark and is at 1,109 receiving yards on 70 catches with five touchdowns. Combine that with Brandon Marshall, who had seven catches for 138 yards and a touchdown last year against the Cowboys and is 10 yards short of 1,000 already this year, and that's as formidable a receiving duo as there is in the league.
That's all in addition to running back Matt Forte, who continues to be a force as a runner and receiver out of the backfield with at least 75 yards rushing and 30 yards receiving in each of his last three games. It's really been the typically vaunted Bears defense that's struggled, allowing at least 20 points in every game this season. They've dealt with a horde of injuries, including ones to defensive tackle Henry Melton and cornerback Charles Tillman, and have now added Jay Ratliff to the mix in what should be an interesting matchup to watch. Despite the defensive struggles, three of their four last defeats have been by four points or fewer, and the score may be lower given the frigid environment this weekend.