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Houston Texans, Chicago Bears differ in one key area

Each week, we watch as much Game Rewind as possible. And it's still not enough. We try to share a few things we think we learned every Friday.

Chicago's fatal flaw

We came into this season wondering if Chicago's protection could hold up. The perception is that the Bears have improved on the offensive line because the team is 7-1, but that's not really the case. Only the Arizona Cardinals have given up more sacks/per game.

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Even against lackluster fronts like the Tennessee Titans in Week 9, Bears quarteback Jay Cutler does not have time to set up in the pocket often. Bears fans will point out that the team is built on defense, special teams, defense, running and defense before the passing game.

Good luck with that approach in the playoffs. Just look at the other NFC contenders: San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks all have elite pass rushes. The Green Bay Packers destroyed the Bears' line in their first meeting. Chicago faces a team with a winning record for the next six games. Life is about to get a lot harder.

Pressure from all sides

Bears left tackle J'Marcus Webb and right tackle Gabe Carimi get all the attention for their struggles, but Cutler has perhaps had even more trouble with pressure up the middle. This is a problem with MVP candidate defensive end J.J. Watt coming to town. Houston presents mismatch problems at every level of the defense.

The Bears line does not communicate well, even when Cutler is nice to them. Houston can get pressure with stunts, blitzes, and simply by winning one-on-one matchups.

A new Texan to worry about

Houston's first-round pick linebacker Whitney Mercilus comes on stronger every week. Linebackers Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin haven't been great this year rushing the passer, but they present problems along with Watt. The Bills only gave up eight sacks all season before facing Houston. The Texans got Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on the ground four times.

Battle of the bests

I was surprised to see I was the only ATL writer picking Houston. When the Texans are on the field, you have a severe mismatch up front. When the Texans offense is on the field, you have a matchup of one of the best offensive lines in football against one of the best defensive lines in Chicago. It's going to be fun to watch.

Matt Schaub is as well protected as any quarterback in football. (He's only been sacked 10 times.) He's also not very mobile. Get Schaub off the spot and you will disrupt the Texans passing game quickly.

This remains a play-action passing attack that likes to rip off big chunks of yardage. That worked well against Buffalo, but the Texans aren't as fast on the outside as they used to be. Texas receiver Andre Johnson is still very effective, but it's a little harder getting him open deep. Tight end Owen Daniels and wide receiver Kevin Walter aren't known for their speed. Daniels isn't 100 percent healthy and may not play. A third wide receiver has not stepped up.

The Bears are unbelievable at preventing the big play. It's going to be tough for the Texans to get deep or separation. FootballOutsiders ranks these two defenses as the top two against the pass. This game figures to be won on the ground.

Two elite backs

Arian Foster is running very strong again after a relatively slow start for him. Matt Forte is playing as well as he has at any point in his Bears career, but he's not getting the ball as much as he used to.

Look for Chicago to load up Forte with carries this week. The Bears offensive line is much better run blocking than in pass protection. Forte has only received more than 16 carries in a game twice despite all of Chicago's winning. Foster has almost doubled that workload.

Defining game

Both teams fell short in their biggest moments to date this season. (Both national televised losses against the Packers.) The Texans are most vulnerable through the air, but the Bears don't have the roster to expose them. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph is playing better of late and Houston should be able to slow down Brandon Marshall. Wade Phillips is right: The Bears don't throw it to anyone else.

This is a defining game for both teams. They both think they have the best defense in football and a chance for homefield advantage in the playoffs.

The biggest difference: Houston's offense is so much further along. They will be ready Sunday night.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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