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Texans prepare for colossal matchup at Chicago Bears


After beating the Buffalo Bills in Week 9, the Texans are 7-1 at the midway point of the season.

Up next as they look to extend the best start in team history: A trip to Chicago to face the 7-1 Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday Night Football.

The Texans have the best record in the AFC. The Bears have the second-best record in the NFC, trailing only the 8-0 Atlanta Falcons.

The Houston Chronicle has billed the game as a potential Super Bowl preview. Others are calling it a "game of the year" type of matchup. It's the seventh game since 1970 with teams who both have one or fewer losses in Week 9 or later.

"It's a big game – very big game," said wide receiver Andre Johnson, the Texans' longest-tenured player. "I think that the big thing is not to put too much pressure on yourself. We know the significance of this game. It's probably the biggest game in this franchise's history."

The Texans and Bears are the only NFL teams with a top-five scoring offense and defense. The Texans rank second in scoring (29.6 points/game) and fourth in scoring defense (17.1). The Bears rank third in scoring (29.5) and second in scoring defense (15.0).

The Bears lead the NFL in average point differential ( 14.5/game). The Texans rank second ( 12.5).

"It's huge," Texans center Chris Myers said. "Two 7-1 teams playing top-notch ball right now on both sides. It's going to be a huge challenge for us offensively; the same with our defense playing against their offense. It's going to be a fun game."

Defense is the name of this game. The Texans rank fourth defensively in scoring (17.1 points/game), third in yards (286.1), fourth in passing (203.8) and second in rushing (82.4). Led by NFL sack leader J.J. Watt, they have the NFL's top third-down defense (26.5 percent) and have not allowed a rushing touchdown in 10 consecutive games.

The Bears' defense ranks second in scoring (15.0), sixth in yards (318.1), 16th in passing (230.1) and sixth in rushing (88.0). They have returned seven interceptions for touchdowns, the most in NFL history through eight games, and have the NFL's top red-zone defense (36.8 percent).

"They've got two of the top defensive minds in the game over the past 15-20 years when you talk about (Bears head coach) Lovie (Smith) and (assistant head coach/defensive coordinator) Rod Marinelli," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "They have one of the greatest players to play the interior in a long time with (DE Julius) Peppers. They have one of the best middle linebackers (Brian Urlacher) that the game has seen in a long time leading the way.

"They are very well-built in what they do, and they've been together for a long time... We have a serious task ahead of us."

The Week 10 showdown, which is the third regular-season meeting between the Texans and Bears, could hinge on turnovers. The Texans have the fewest giveaways (6) in the NFL. The Bears have the most takeaways (28), among them 17 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries.

The Bears rank first in turnover differential ( 16). The Texans rank sixth ( 8). Quarterback Matt Schaub has thrown just five interceptions in his last 12 games.

"When you don't hurt yourself as a football team, at the end of the day, you should have an excellent chance to win a football game or be in a dang good football game," Kubiak said. "They're the best in the business (at forcing turnovers) and well on their way to some records. We protect it pretty good, so it's kind of a strength against a strength. Hopefully, we can hold up our end of the bargain."

The Texans also are looking to atone for their last primetime performance, a humbling 42-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week 6 at Reliant Stadium. Players and coaches have chalked it up to an aberration, a game in which the Packers played great and Texans played poorly. Sunday night will be a chance to back up that assertion on a national stage.

"Everybody'll be watching to see how we respond," Johnson said. "A lot of people bring up the Green Bay game from last time we played on Sunday night. That's behind us. We're moving forward, and we know the challenge that we have.

"We'll be ready."

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