Thursday Snapshot: Bears vs. Dolphins

The NFL experts from The Sports Xchange come up with everything you need to know before Thursday's contest, as the Chicago Bears are set to take on the Miami Dolphins in Week 11 at Sun Life Stadium.

THURSDAY SNAPSHOT
Kickoff: 7:20 p.m. Central
Surface: Natural Grass
Television: NFL Network – Bob Papa, Matt Millen, Joe Theismann, Alex Flanagan
Series History: 11th meeting. Dolphins lead series 7-3 and have won by lopsided margins in each of the past two games, 31-13 at Soldier Field in 2006 and 27-9 in South Florida in '02, a Monday night game.

KEYS TO THE GAME
Injuries could thin the Dolphins beyond recognition, with left tackle Jake Long (shoulder), linebacker Cameron Wake (hip) and the team's top two quarterbacks hurting. The Bears have found the balance between run and pass that everyone was clamoring for, and it seems to be working. Expectations are that it will remain close to a 50-50 split, although offensive coordinator Mike Martz is always going to lean toward throwing the ball. The Bears haven't run the ball all that impressively the past two weeks, victories over the Bills and Vikings, but they did it enough times (69) to take the heat off QB Jay Cutler. The Bears are still averaging just 3.8 yards per carry, but they hope to improve on that as the O-line continues to jell. No one is selling third stringer Tyler Thigpen short because of his experience in the league and the running game and skill-position players at his disposal. The Bears aren't expecting an inordinate amount of Wildcat, but they are focused on stopping the run first, having been burned by Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in the past.

FAST FACTS
Thigpen went 1-10 as a starter with the Chiefs. ... Brown has averaged more than 4.9 yards per carry in four games this season and 2.5 yards or less in three others. Brown has TDs in two straight games. ... The Dolphins have been outscored in every quarter except the first. They hold a 47-41 advantage in the first. The Dolphins have been outscored 53-34 in the fourth quarter. ... The Dolphins have allowed 21 touchdowns, of which 13 were TD passes. ... The Bears lead the NFL with 24 takeaways. They also have 21 turnovers, 26th in the NFL. ... The Bears have averaged 0.1 yards on 10 rushing plays on third down and 1 or 2 yards to go. ... The Bears are 18 of 31 on third-down conversions in the past two games. They had only 15 third-down conversions total in the first seven games, including 0-for-25 in losses to Seattle and the Giants.


K Robbie Gould
Scott Boehm/Getty

PERSONNEL NEWS
Bears:
WR Johnny Knox has at least one catch for 24 yards or longer in eight of nine games this season and is on pace for 1,096 receiving yards. He has 32 catches for 617 yards and a 19.3-yard average, sixth in the NFL. ... Cutler is averaging 5.5 yards per carry despite several kneel-downs. He has eight runs of 10 yards or longer. ... WR Devin Hester has just one game with 40 or more receiving yards this season, but he's averaging an NFL-best 16.7 yards on punt returns with two touchdowns and has two kickoff returns for a total of 100 yards. ... K Robbie Gould has slipped from third to fifth among the most accurate FG kickers in NFL history after missing three straight, a slump that ended last week. He's at 85.1 percent for his career at 148-for-174. ... LB Brian Urlacher has a team-best nine tackles for loss and three fumble recoveries, is second with six pass breakups, has 1.5 sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and a team-high 71 tackles.

Dolphins: C Joe Berger (knee) missed his second straight practice and could be in danger of missing his first game since returning to the Dolphins in 2009. Berger was seen limping badly after Sunday's game, but it's unknown which play sent him to the sideline. ... C Cory Procter got the first-team reps Tuesday and could be in line to start. Procter's last starts at center came in the final two games of the 2007 season with the Cowboys. ... Starting strong safety Yeremiah Bell (toe) was upgraded to full participation in practice after being limited on Monday. Bell had a strip sack of Vince Young on Sunday that set up the Dolphins' 13-yard touchdown drive early in the second half. ... QB Chad Henne (left knee) missed practice again Tuesday, but coach Tony Sparano reported he had "made some progress" and was "feeling a little bit better." Don't look for Henne to play before the Nov. 28 game at Oakland at the earliest. ... WR Brandon Marshall, speaking to the media for the first time since Sunday's game, refused to discuss his frustrated fling of the football into the Dolphins sideline after a 10-yard catch. "Talking about today and the Chicago Bears," he said. "I am past that game. Sorry."

PREDICTION
Bears 23, Dolphins 16.


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