Chad Hutchinson is set to make his third start at quarterback for the Bears. He has played reasonably well since replacing the ineffective Craig Krenzel and Johnathan Quinn. On the offensive line, numerous injuries have left the Bears with a patchwork front. Terrrence Metcalf will start at left guard after Ruben Brown was lost for the season to a neck injury a few weeks ago. Steve Edwards gets the start at right guard, where the Bears have been unsettled all season. Rex Tucker received a few starts there but was ineffective after missing close to the first half of the year with a dislocated elbow. Tucker finds himself back on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. It's the third season in a row that has ended this way for Tucker. Edwards is no bargain at right guard, where he has struggled since injuring his hamstring two weeks ago. Right tackle John Tait has missed the last two games (knee) and will likely be replaced by Aaron Gibson. Tait has shown some improvement. Left tackle Qasim Mitchell has seen some action at right tackle in practice this week, with Marc Colombo getting reps on the left side.
The Texans recently lost inside linebacker Jay Foreman for the season. His absence allows Antwan Peek more opportunities to get on the field as either an outside linebacker or pass rushing defensive end. The Texans are loaded with tweener linebackers like Foreman, Peek, Kailee Wong, and rookie Jason Babin. Their anchors on the line have been Gary Walker, Robaire Smith, and Seth Payne. An advantage of having so many tweeners is it allows the defense to change back and forth from 3-4 to 4-3, which changes blocking schemes for the offense. This puts an extra burden on the offensive line to adapt on the fly to the changing fronts. The Bears' injury-depleted offensive line will be hard-pressed to properly communicate and execute pass blocking schemes against the Texans' scheme and personnel. Additionally, some of the burden for protection falls on the quarterback, and that means Chad Hutchinson will have his work cut out for him. Jason Simmons and Marlon McCree will see increased playing time now that free safety Marcus Coleman is out.
The Texans usually run a 3-4 alignment. If they paid any attention to the Bears' previous game, they'll be sending blitzes from all over the field, especially overloading one side. Their scheme lends itself to this. The Bears must keep in mind that the downfall of many 3-4 alignments is run defense. The Bears should work to find a weakness between the tackles and stick with it, setting up play action. Additionally, if they see an overloaded side of the line, they need to ensure they can slide protection that way on passing downs or audible to a running play on the defense's weak side.
Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is expected to miss the game with an injured hamstring. Strong side linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer will slide back to the middle, and Marcus Reese will step up to play the strong side. Reese opened the coaches' eyes in training camp and appeared to have the inside track on a starting spot until injuries forced him to the sideline. He appears to cover well but will need to prove himself against the run. Hillenmeyer will face a difficult challenge trying to stop Domanick Davis. Davis has 10 rushing touchdowns and 55 receptions. Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye is not listed on the report this week, but has been nursing a sore lower leg/ankle since the beginning of the year. If he's starting to turn the corner, he could be a difference maker for the Bears. R.W. McQuarters is set to make his third straight start at free safety after spending his career as a cornerback. He replaced Todd Johnson who was steady but unspectacular after replacing Mike Brown (Achilles) at the beginning of the season. The Texans are relatively healthy on offense, and are facing a Bears defense that has been very up and down over the last month.
The Bears will seek to put pressure on David Carr, who has gradually gotten better as a pro. Carr is completing better than 60 percent of his passes. Although he's been sacked 37 times, he isn't getting sacked nearly as often as he was as a rookie. The Texans are at their best when they run their offense through Davis as an all-purpose back. They then pick their spots hitting wide receiver Andre Johnson (1052 receiving yards) deep when the defense cheats up to stop Davis. Since the Bears are facing lineup changes among their linebacker corps, that strategy should be expected.