Chicago Bears (6-3) at Miami Dolphins (5-4)
Two teams coming off big victories — the Bears upended the Vikings in Week 10 while the Dolphins got their first home win of the season over Tennessee — will lock horns this Sunday. When they do, it’ll be a matchup of two of the NFL’s most bizarre teams.
The Bears are 6-3, good for a tie atop the NFC North division. But it’s a strange division lead to be sure. The Bears have only scored 175 points this season — second-fewest amongst all divisional leaders — and have found the end zone just 19 times. To put that in perspective, the New England Patriots have scored 32 touchdowns thus far.
And if you were to look on paper and see the 33 sacks Chicago has allowed this season, you’d think its offensive line would be in disarray. But oddly enough, Chicago’s front five has been a virtual brick wall over the last two weeks, surrendering just two sacks to Buffalo and Minnesota combined.
Continuing in the oddity is Miami. They’ve compiled a 5-4 record by being dominant on the road (4-1) and lousy at home (1-4) — and their lone home victory of the season was about as strange as they come. In a 29-17 win over Tennessee, Miami lost both its starting QB (Chad Pennington) and backup (Chad Henne) to injury, forcing third-stringer Tyler Thigpen into action. Thigpen didn’t do much to move the offense, so the Dolphins reverted back to the ol’ Wildcat formation and it paid dividends. The Dolphins lined up in the Wildcat seven times and banged out 49 yards, kick-starting a running game that had been silenced for most of the afternoon.
Detroit Lions (2-7) at Dallas Cowboys (2-7)
The Lions are coming off arguably their worst loss of the regular season.
The Cowboys are coming off arguably their biggest win.
Those are the two major storylines heading into Sunday’s battle of two-win teams. Last Sunday, Detroit looked ready to snap its ridiculous road losing streak — the Lions have lost 25 straight road contests, a NFL record — with a gimme game against the winless Bills. But Buffalo played some tough, gritty football en route to a 14-12 win, preventing the Lions from getting off the proverbial ‘schneid’.
Detroit will have another chance to snap that streak this Sunday in Dallas, but it won’t be easy.
With new head coach Jason Garrett at the helm, the Cowboys provided the upset of Week 10 with a 33-20 win over the New York Giants. Garrett implemented several new wrinkles into the Cowboys game plan:
— More downfield throws. The Cowboys took more shots down the field, throwing more than 20 yards downfield on 22.7 percent of their pass attempts. Prior to Sunday, the Cowboys had only thrown more than 20 yards downfield on 8.5 percent of pass attempts;
— More screen plays, including one that Felix Jones broke off for a TD;
All of which seemed to spark a team that many had left for dead after a 1-7 start. Garrett is a hard-nosed, no-nonsense guy that knows he’s auditioning for next year’s head coaching gig — don’t be surprised if he has the Cowboys playing tough football for the remainder of the regular season.