Game Scout: Cowboys at Bears

Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Dallas Cowboys (7-5) at Chicago Bears (6-6)
Monday, 8:40 p.m. ET, at Soldier Field, Chicago - TV: ESPN
*TV announcers: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters
*Keys to the game: Chicago is nearing must-win territory, and has the edge of icy temperatures on what has historically been a choppy playing surface. RB Matt Forte has averaged 113.4 yards from scrimmage in seven Monday night appearances and had 151 yards last week at Minnesota. QB Jay Cutler (ankle) returned to practice and could force a decision from coach Marc Trestman, who was pleased with Josh McCown's play in four games Cutler missed to date this season. Dallas is 32nd in total defense, 31st against the pass, but can stick around by dodging turnovers and feeding RB DeMarco Murray. The Bears are depleted up the middle and are being torn apart by big plays in the running game, allowing 5.01 yards per carry and 153.6 rushing yards per game.
*Matchup to watch - Bears WRs Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall vs. Cowboys CBs Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick: Jeffery is flourishing with McCown at the controls and averaging 111.7 receiving yards per game. Marshall had 16 catches for 332 yards and three touchdowns in his past three meetings with the Cowboys.
*Player spotlight - Bears DT Jeremiah Ratliff: The three-technique formerly known as "Jay" gets a shot at his former employer after logging 27 percent of the snaps in his debut with Chicago last week. It was his first action in more than a year due to a torn groin muscle, an injury that kept him off the field and caused Dallas to release him earlier this season.
*Fast facts: Jason Witten of the Cowboys has 860 receptions, second in NFL history for tight ends behind Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez. ... Cutler is 6-1 on Monday nights with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Single-digit temperatures are expected but that might not slow down scoring based on the fatal flaws of the defenses in this game. QB Tony Romo's ability to avoid interceptions -- Dallas is plus-12 in turnover margin -- while leaning on DeMarco Murray gives the Cowboys a critical edge.
*Our pick: Cowboys 31-27

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