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Problems Matching Up for Bears

Where the Texans can give the Bears the most problems in Sunday's game at Soldier Field.

This could be the last game the Bears play this season as betting favorites.

They're not favorites by much, since three points is essentially what the home team gets.

There are reasons they are not favored by more against a team stuck both in turmoil and rebuilding, one whose head coach, former Bears coach Lovie Smith, had losing seasons all four years at Illinois and both of his seasons coaching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Part of the reason the Bears are only slight favorites is the Texas do have several budding talents who can make a difference in this matchup.

Texans quarterback Davis Mills has looked more advanced in the passing game than Bears quarterback Justin Fields and he has a better cast of targets loaded with speed. They also have a good, young running back in Dameon Pierce.

Here are the toughest position battles facing the Bears against the Texans on Sunday at Soldier Field.

Bears CB Kindle Vildor vs. Texans WR Brandin Cooks

Six times in his previous eight seasons Cooks went over 1,000 yards and it doesn't matter who he is playing for or who is throwing him the ball. He gets it done. He did it with Drew Brees with the Saints, with Tom Brady and the Patriots, with Jared Goff in Los Angeles and even now the last two years with Davis Mills, Tyrod Taylor, Deshaun Watson and A.J. McCarron throwing passes the last two years in Houston. He has 11 catches for 136 yards already, including seven for 82 yards against the Colts and a defensive scheme similar to the one run by the Bears. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound receiver gets it done with quickness, raw speed and route running. They'll likely even move him into the slot and attack rookie Kyler Gordon with Cooks at times, although they have other receivers for this. Vildor has been targeted seven times and allowed six completions after recording passer ratings against of 131.2 and 136.1 in his first two seasons. He's not giving up much size-wise to Cooks and has good speed but it's play recognition and going after the ball where Vildor has struggled.

Bears DE Al-Quadin Muhammad vs. Texans RT Tytus Howard

Muhammad was given the left starting defensive end role over Trevis Gipson after being behind Gipson throughout the offseason, training camp and preseason. He has done little in both Bears games while Gipson has delivered a pair of sacks early against Green Bay and had the highest Pro Football Focus pass rush grade for the Bears in the game (73.5). So it would be no shock if more playing time comes Gipson's way. Muhammad came over from the Colts with coach Matt Eberflus and has four tackles and two hurries in two games. PFs gives him a grade of 40.1 overall and 48.8 in the pass rush. The pass rush grade is 147th out of 149 pass rushers graded. Howard is no stranger to Muhammad, as they were in the same division the past three years. Howard is off to his best start with one sack allowed and two penalties. His 72.9 overall grade as a blocker by PFF is a big step up over his previous seasons. Although Muhammad had a career-high two sacks against Houston last year, it was when Howard played the opposite side of the line at left tackle. The Texans have Laremy Tunsil playing well at left tackle this year.

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Bears WR Darnell Mooney vs. Texans CB Steven Nelson

Nelson's strength had been more man to man earlier in his career and is adjusting well to zone scheme with the 14th highest pass coverage grade among the 103 cornerbacks graded by PFF. He has allowed only 41.7% completions when targeted this year according to Sportradar. He has three pass breakups this year. Nelson had been an effective left cornerback in the past and was available at two years and $9 million for Houston when the Bears could have obviously benefited from an experienced upgrade at the other cornerback. Mooney normally had been a Bears strength but after two games and catches of only 8 yards and minus-4 yards, it appears he is not adjusting well to being the focus of defensive coverage. In the past, including at least the first half of last season, Allen Robinson drew the most coverage among Bears receivers. The Bears need to get Mooney involved with some shorter throws early to get the offense into a better rhythm.

Bears T Braxton Jones vs. Texans DE Jerry Hughes

At 34, Hughes appears to just keep rolling along much like Bears 32-year-old edge Robert Quinn. Hughes has two sacks after coming over from Buffalo. He had two sacks, an interception and fumble recovery in the first game of the year. Jones has not been the detriment a rookie tackle can be for a team. However, he has given up a pair of sacks and three pressures, both Bears highs. The Bears do try to give him help with a chipper to that side or even an extra blocker at times. PFF gives him a 62.7 pass blocking grade, the second best on the offensive line so far.

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