The No. 1 tipping-point key to winning in the NFL is turnovers, an area in which the Bears have turned themselves around from recent years and which suddenly is a problem for the Denver Broncos.
Jay Cutler’s interceptions are at career-low (1.8 percent) and the Bears find themselves at a modest minus-1 in spite of a secondary with exactly one interception on the season. As surprising perhaps is that the Broncos are not only minus-2, but also that they have not had a takeaway in three games and have lost the last two of those.
Not that the Bears can count on winning without takeaways, but they are 3-1 in games with a negative turnover margin vs. 0-2 in games with a positive margin (Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings). Consider that a paradox and one that will eventually unravel the Bears if turnovers continue tilting away from them.
The broader true issue for the Bears is that Denver’s defense is No. 1 at yardage allowed and No. 3 in points given up, while the Bears are a very respectable No. 8 in yards but No. 24 in scoring defense. The Broncos, however, will be without their best pass rusher — DeMarcus Ware out with back spasms — while the Bears may be without linebacker Pernell McPhee. The Bears won last week without McPhee; the Broncos lost to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 10 when Ware missed the second half.
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The problem for the Bears' defense has been rushing yards allowed (26th, 119 ypg.). But the Broncos are among the NFL’s worst rushing teams (29th, 86 ypg.), and the Bears are coming off a game in which they held St. Louis Rams rookie rushing phenom Todd Gurley to 3.8 yards per carry vs. his average of 5.6 coming in.
With a first-time starting quarterback (Brock Osweiler) and an anemic ground game, the Broncos will have difficulty scoring unless the Bears help them with turnovers, which Cutler and the offense has cut back on. Both teams average nearly 22 points per game and both will be challenged hitting that mark on Sunday, for different reasons. The Bears come closer.
Prediction: Bears 20, Broncos 18