Who: Chicago Bears (0-0) vs. Houston Texans (0-0)
When: Sunday, Sept. 11, noon CT
Where: NRG Stadium (artificial turf)
Radio: 780 AM and 105.9 FM
The Bears will open the regular season on the road for the first time since 2009, snapping a string of six straight home openers. It's also the first time the Bears will be opening the regular season against the Texans.
Sunday's matchup will mark the fourth time the two clubs have met, with the Texans holding a 3-0 advantage over Chicago.
The last two matches between the Bears and Texans have been close, with Houston winning each contest by seven points. In 2012, Houston defeated the Bears 13-6 and in 2008 the Texans won by a score of 31-24.
The Texans are the only NFL franchise the Bears have never beaten. The teams first met in 2004, a 24-5 Texans victory at Soldier Field.
The Monsters of the Midway enter Sunday's contest with 54 opening-day victories all-time (54-37-5), the most in NFL history.
-Texans runnings back coach Charles London was the offensive assistant for the Bears from 2007-09.
-Texans G Jeff Allen played collegiately at Illinois and played football at King High School in Chicago. OLB Whitney Mercilus played collegiately at Illinois. ILB Brian Peters played collegiately at Northwestern.
-Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was defensive coordinator for the Texans from 2002-05. Assistant special teams coach Richard Hightower was the coaching assistant/special teams assistant for the Texans form 2006-08.
-Bears QB Brian Hoyer spent the 2015 season with the Texans, appearing in 11 games with 9 starts. He threw for 2,606 yards and 19 TDs.
-Bears DB Sherrick McManis was drafted by the Texans in the 5th round (144th overall) in 2010. He played two seasons in Houston, appearing in 23 games before being traded to the Bears for FB Tyler Clutts in 2012.
-Bears S Adrian Amos played for Texans head coach Bill O'Brien from 2012-2013 at Penn State.
|JOHN FOX||BILL O'BRIEN|
|125-99 (.558)||Regular Season Record (Pct.)||18-14 (.563)|
|15th||Years as NFL Head Coach||3rd|
|2nd||Years as Team's Head Coach||3rd|
|0-0||Career Head-to-Head (Reg. Season)||0-0|
|1-3||Career vs. Team (Reg. Season)||0-0|
The following Bears are listed as questionable on the injury report:
S Deon Bush (hamstring)
CB Bryce Callahan (groin)
CB Kyle Fuller (knee)
FB Paul Lasike (wrist)
G Kyle Long (shoulder)
WR/KR Deonte Thompson (knee/ankle)
DE Cornelius Washington (knee/ankle)
WR Kevin White (hamstring)
WR Josh Bellamy (shoulder)
For the Texans, T Duane Brown (knee) has been ruled Out.
2015 Regular Season
|BEARS (NFL RANK)||TEXANS (NFL RANK)|
|20.9 (23rd)||Points Scored||21.2 (21st)|
|344.6 (21st)||Total Offense||347.8 (19th)|
|115.9 (11th)||Rushing Offense||108.2 (15th)|
|228.8 (23rd)||Passing Offense||239.6 (18th)|
|24.8 (20th)||Points Allowed||19.6 (7th)|
|354.4 (14th)||Total Defense||310.2 (3rd)|
|120.9 (22nd)||Rushing Defense||99.8 (10th)|
|224.6 (4th)||Passing Defense||210.4 (3rd)|
|-4 (19th)||Turnover Ratio||5 (10th)|
Bears on Offense
Matchups to Watch
RG Kyle Long vs. DE J.J. Watt
J.J. Watt is not 100 percent after undergoing two back surgeries this off-season and will be on a limited snap count against the Bears. That said, 50 percent of Watt is better than 100 percent of most NFL players. That will put a lot of pressure on Kyle Long, who is battling through a shoulder injury. If the Bears are going to move the ball consistently on Sunday, Long must keep Watt out of the backfield and out of the running lanes. The Houston defense feeds off Watt, so if he gets going, it will be a long, tough road for Jay Cutler and the running backs. This is a premiere matchup against two of the best at their respective positions. For the Bears to win, Long must come out on top.
WR Alshon Jeffery vs. CB Johnathan Joseph
Jeffery has looked like an absolute beast throughout the off-season and preseason, which needs to carry over to Week 1. Jeffery (6-3) has a four-inch height advantage over Joseph (5-11) and he's also six years younger. Joseph is 32 and coming off a 2015 campaign in which he intercepted just one pass, his lowest INT total since 2008. When Jeffery gets 1-on-1 looks against Joseph, the Bears need to take advantage. Joseph is still a quality corner but he's not the same player he was just a few years ago. If Jeffery can make a few of his patented downfield plays, that will loosen up the defense, which should help Cutler, the other receivers and the run game.
Keys on Offense
-The Bears have professed all off-season their desire to use a backfield by committee, riding the hot hand each game. We didn't see that during the preseason, as the running backs split full series. On Sunday, we'll supposedly get our first look at the post-Forte backfield. Yet don't be fooled, this is Jeremy Langford's show for the time being. Ka'Deem Carey will likely get 5-10 touches, with rookie Jordan Howard working in short-yardage situations, but the success of the run game on Sunday will fall on the speedy Langford, who has looked very good in the club's new zone-blocking system. Langford has the home run ability the Bears desperately need in this contest. Moving the ball consistently against a top NFL defense isn't realistic, especially for an offense in transition, so big plays will be a necessity. If Langford can rip off a few long runs, the offense should be able post respectable numbers on the scoreboard.
-Chicago's offensive line struggled mightily in blitz pickup this off-season. Now they'll enter the regular season with a new starter at left guard, Josh Sitton, meaning the Week 1 front five has never played a single snap together. That's scary, particularly against a Houston front seven that features Watt, as well as former first overall pick Jadaveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus (12.0 sacks last season) off the edges. Not only will RT Bobby Massie and LT Charles Leno have their hands full on passing downs, but expect Houston defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to dial up blitzes early and often. If the Bears' new-look front five can't build instant chemistry, blitzers are going to come free, which could spell disaster for Cutler and the passing attack.
-TE Zach Miller was sparsely used during the preseason due to a concussion but he's healthy this week. That's a big boost for the Bears, as the passing attack was anemic with him on the sidelines. Miller has the potential to be a quality starting tight end in this league and it all starts this week. Not only does he need to stay healthy on Sunday but he needs to produce against Texans ILBs Brian Cushing and Bernardrick McKinney. In the passing game, McKinney can be exposed, of which Miller needs to take advantage. He led the team in touchdowns receptions last season and he'll need at least one score this weekend if the Bears are going to pull off the upset.
Bears on Defense
Matchups to Watch
LT Chris Clark vs. OLB Willie Young
The Texans will be without starting left tackle Duane Brown, which will put Chris Clark into the starting role. Brown is one of the best left tackles in the game and Clark is a clear step down. This is good new for Willie Young, who has been the most impressive edge rusher on the team throughout camp and the preseason. With Pernell McPhee on the shelf, it'll be up to Young to pick up the pass-rush slack. He had 7.0 sacks in the second half last year and is fresh off a contract extension. If Young takes advantage of the matchup with Clark and regularly collapses the pocket, QB Brock Osweiler is going to get rattled, which could lead to some crucial Bears turnovers.
WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. CB Tracy Porter
It would be surprising if Kyle Fuller (knee) played on Sunday, which means Tracy Porter will be shadowing DeAndre Hopkins for most of the game. This is a critical matchup for the Bears defense, as Hopkins is one of the best receivers in the game. Last season he caught 111 passes for 1,521 yards and 11 TDs, and that was facing consistent double teams every week. In reality, Hopkins is the type of player who is going to get his. The best the Bears can hope for is to just contain him and not let him blow the game wide open. That will involve plenty of double teams, as well as rolling safety help over the top on nearly every passing down. If Porter can somehow keep Hopkins in check, the Bears will have a chance at victory.
Keys on Defense
-The Texans paid QB Brock Osweiler a lot of money this off-season and he'll carry Houston's passing attack going forward. The Bears faced Osweiler when he started for the Broncos last year, so he's not an unknown, especially as John Fox coached him in Denver. Osweiler is tall (6-8), has a big arm and good wheels. Physically, he has everything you look for in an NFL quarterback but Osweiler is still relatively inexperienced. He's started just 7 games his first four years in the NFL, all coming last season in place of Peyton Manning. Now Osweiler is "the guy" with huge expectations. That's pressure the Bears must exploit. Osweiler surely wants to impress in his first game as Houston's starter, which means he could force a few throws, particularly if the pass rush is consistent. Willie Young, Lamarr Houston and rookie Leonard Floyd must pressure the edges on passing downs, while rookie Jonathan Bullard will get his first shot to collapse the pocket in Osweiler's face. If the defensive line can create havoc in the backfield, the Bears should be able to force some timely turnovers.
-Lamar Miller came over from Miami this off-season and is expected to be the focal point of Houston's rushing attack. Miller is a talented, slippery 25-year-old ball carrier with breakaway speed and good hands. He's one of the better all-around backs in the league, meaning the Bears need to focus a lot of their attention on keeping Miller in check. Ball security has been an issue for Miller - he lost three fumbles in 2014 - meaning the Bears need to be active in trying to strip the ball. New ILBs Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman need to be stout in their run fits because if Miller gets on a roll, this game will quickly get out of hand.
-The Texans upgraded the interior of their offensive line this off-season with the addition of LG Jeff Allen. He's a rock, yet RG Xavier Su'a-Filo can be exploited. He struggled mightily in pass protection last year, so the Bears must flood him with stunts and blitzes. Su'a-Filo is the weak link for Texas up front, so if the Bears want to pressure Osweiler consistently, they must overwhelm and confuse Houston's right guard.