Football analyst Bucky Brooks, a former NFL player and scout who now works for NFL Network and serves as an analyst for DallasCowboys.com, gives his weekly keys to the game Sunday, providing specific points of emphasis for both the Cowboys and Bears.
The Cowboys will win if…
The recipe is fairly simple for the Cowboys with or without their franchise quarterback or one of their star running backs: run the ball and rely on the defense to create scoring opportunities on big plays or turnovers. That is the way the Cowboys have jumped out to a 5-2 record and the coaching should not deviate from a blueprint that works for this team. Against the Bears, the potential absence of Ezekiel Elliott will test the staff's commitment to the running game with Tony Pollard expected to shoulder the workload. Although the fourth-year pro has shown immense potential as a big play threat with the ball in his hands, he has never been forced to handle a full RB1 workload as the lead runner. The Cowboys must find a way to keep him fresh while leaning into his ability to make contributions in the passing. Whether Pollard gets his touches on swings, screens, and check-downs to complement his workload as a runner, the ball must hit No.20's hands 20-plus times for the offense to operate at an efficient clip.
Defensively, the Cowboys will need to have an answer for Bears' new and improved offense. The team has transitioned into college-style offense with Justin Fields featured as a dual-threat playmaker. Considering he has run the ball at least 12 times in each of the past two contests, the Cowboys will need to neutralize the second-year pro and force him to throw to move the ball down the field. If the Cowboys contain the Bears' No.1 ranked running game while avoiding giveaways, this matchup could turn into a one-sided affair.
The Bears will win if…
The Bears are coming into the game as a confident squad following a surprising win on the road. The team's takedown of the Patriots reveals a game plan that would work for them with their current personnel. Fields sets the pace as a dual-threat weapon with outstanding running skills and a big arm. He prefers to do his damage on the perimeter but has enough size and strength to run between the tackles.
With the Cowboys forced to account for Fields whereabouts on every play, the defense does not have enough bodies to they have enough defenders to stop the read-option and the various complementary plays. Khalil Herbert and David Montgomery could take advantage of the extra attention and running room created by the team's commitment to containing the quarterback. If the Bears' trio can consistently move the chains alternating snaps as the primary ball carrier, Matt Eberflus' squad could set the tone with their smash-mouth running game.
On defense, the Bears will need to out-hit and out-hustle the Cowboys at every turn. As a team with minimal star power, the Bears needs 11 defenders flowing to the ball at all times to contain the Cowboys' potent rushing attack. In addition, the simplification of the defense should enable the unit to run fast and track down plays as sideline-to-sideline contributors. With a few big hits and some opportunistic turnovers, the Bears could claim a victory with a superb complementary football plan.