This week’s Sunday Night Football game will feature two 7-1 teams, the Houston Texans and the Chicago Bears. Both have played extremely well through the first half of the season, excelling and even dominating in many facets of the game. Attempting to select just one key matchup this week is difficult because there are so many evenly matched battles across the field. Both teams have dynamic defenses that force tons of turnovers and are both at the tops of points scored and points allowed. One could argue that this week’s key matchup might not be the overall key to winning (perhaps TO battle is more important), but the most exciting matchup will Texans CB Johnathan Joseph tasked to stopping Bears WR Brandon Marshall.
A year ago, the Bears were on pace for a wild card playoff berth before both QB Jay Cutler and RB Matt Forte went down for the season with injuries. The Bears flamed out and ultimately missed the playoffs. The Bears have had a dominant defense for years, but their knock as always been struggles on offense. That’s why this past offseason, the Bears made a trade for Marshall, a dominant wide receiver who has been a bit of a handful off the field during his career. Reuniting Marshall with his former QB Cutler when the two played together in Denver has proved to be genius and has already paid huge dividends. The Bears offense ranks third in points per game while Marshall currently ranks in the top five among NFL wide receivers in catches, yards, and touchdowns. Marshall is proving to be a difference maker for the Bears offense and has helped this team roll to their 7-1 record.
Tasked to shut down (or marginally disrupt) Marshall for the Texans will be Joseph. As the team’s top cornerback, Joseph has had an up and down season to date. He’s been spectacular at times, while very mediocre at other times. Most notably, Joseph hasn’t played well against the better passing teams the Texans have faced, namely the Packers and Broncos.
The toughest part of this matchup for Joseph will be the size differential between he and Marshall. Joseph stands at about 5’11” while Marshall is a whopping 6’4” and 230 pounds. Furthermore, Marshall is excellent in positioning his big body to take full advantage of the size differential while still possessing above average speed.
Shutting down Marshall is essential to marginalizing the Bears offense. In the Bears’ seven wins, Marshall is averaging eight catches for 110 yards and one TD per game. In the Bears’ lone loss to the Packers, Marshall was held to 2 catches for just 24 yards and failed to find the endzone.
Cutler and Forte can have big games, but the key needs to be stopping Marshall. Joseph will be following Marshall all over the field, but expect Joseph to have plenty of safety help over the top. This, coupled with protecting the ball from an opportunistic Bears defense, will be the key to another Texans victory, this time on the road to improve to 8-1.
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