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CHICAGO BEARS (2-1) at DALLAS COWBOYS (2-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line: Dallas -3 (-115) & 41.5
Opening Line & Total: Cowboys -3 (-120) & 44
A pair of 2-1 teams close out Week 4 with a marquee Monday night matchup when Dallas hosts Chicago.
Both of these teams are still feeling their way offensively, as the Bears have been without RB Matt Forte (ankle) and QB Jay Cutler is playing erratic. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have failed to move the ball the past two games after an impressive opening win against the Giants. Chicago had just 168 yards of offense and four turnovers in its Week 2 loss at Green Bay, and a mere 274 yards in last week's home win over the Rams. The probable return of Forte should help jump-start the offense. Dallas has been riding its much-improved defense this year, and it smothered the Bucs in Week 3 despite having to move newly signed top CB Brandon Carr to safety in their increasingly patchwork secondary.
Although the Cowboys offense has put up just 15.7 PPG this season, the passing attack has been pretty potent with at least 245 passing yards in every game. That doesn't bode well for Chicago considering that Lovie Smith is 2-12 ATS on the road versus good passing teams (7+ YPA) as the Bears head coach. The Cowboys are also 19-6 ATS (76%) in home games versus poor rushing teams (3.5 YPC or less) since 1992.
Cutler has completed just 52.7% of his passes for 642 yards, 3 TD and 6 INT this season, while taking 11 sacks. However, in his lone trip to Dallas two years ago, Cutler lit up the Cowboys for 277 yards on 21-of-29 completions, throwing 3 TD and 0 INT in a 27-20 victory. Forte was held to 29 yards on 10 carries in that meeting, but in his only full game this season, he compiled 120 total yards and a touchdown in a 41-21 win over Indianapolis. Michael Bush has gotten the full workload with Forte out, but Bush hasn't done much in the past two games, apparently slowed by a shoulder injury, rushing for just 109 yards on 32 carries (3.4 YPC). Cutler has been zeroing in on his favorite target, WR Brandon Marshall, probably too much as he's thrown exactly one-third of his passes to his former Denver teammate. Marshall has 16 catches for 214 yards, but no other Chicago player has even 10 receptions in the three games.
Defensively, the Bears have been strong in both facets, ranking sixth in the NFL in both rushing defense (76 YPG) and passing defense (203 YPG). These yardage numbers have been kept to a minimum thanks to nine forced turnovers in three games.
The Cowboys need more balance on offense, ranking 13th in the NFL in passing (265 YPG), but fifth-worst in rushing yards (77 YPG). This team was most certainly not balanced the last time they faced Chicago in 2010, as Tony Romo threw for 374 yards, but the rushing offense gained a paltry 36 yards on 20 carries. In the past two weeks versus Seattle and Tampa Bay, Dallas has gained a pathetic 87 yards on 39 carries (2.2 YPC). DeMarco Murray, who had 131 rushing yards on 6.6 YPC in Week 1, has just 82 rushing yards on 2.7 YPC over these past two weeks. One of the reasons Dallas has thrown so often is because Romo has great depth in his receiving corps as four receivers have gotten a nearly equal amount of targets -- WR Miles Austin (22 targets), TE Jason Witten (21 targets), WR Kevin Ogletree (20 targets) and WR Dez Bryant (20 targets).
Defensively, OLB DeMarcus Ware has sparked the pass rush with four sacks, but the team has just one interception all season, by LB Sean Lee. However, Dallas still ranks second in the NFL in passing defense (137 YPG) despite three injured safeties -- Gerald Sensabaugh (calf), Matt Johnson (hamstring) and Barry Church (Achilles). Also, DTs Jay Ratliff (ankle) and Kenyon Coleman (knee) are both questionable for Monday night.