Watt offers big challenge for Cutler and Bears

Fri Nov 9, 2012 1:20pm EST
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By Simon Evans

(Reuters) - If form through the first half of the National Football League (NFL) season is a guide, Sunday's clash between the Houston Texans and the Chicago Bears could be a potential Super Bowl preview.

The Texans lead the AFC with a 7-1 record and the Bears have an identical record, bettered in the NFC only by the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons (8-0).

Critics of the Bears point to their relatively easy schedule so far and the way they struggled against the toughest team they have had to face so far this season - the Green Bay Packers who beat them 23-10 in week two.

Certainly, the Bears face a much tougher second half to the season with the San Francisco 49ers, the Minnesota Vikings (twice), the Seattle Seahawks and the return with the Packers in their next six games.

"You don't win anything when you start 7-1 but it helps," said head coach Lovie Smith this week.

"We don't have a lot of injuries and I feel like our arrow is pointing up....we are pleased where we are," he added.

The Bears have the sixth-ranked overall defense in the NFL and that success has been complimented by the success of wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

The Bears traded for Marshall from the Miami Dolphins in the hope that he could re-kindle the relationship he enjoyed with quarterback Jay Cutler at Denver and the gamble has paid off.   Continued...

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) blocks a pass by New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) in the fourth quarter of their NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, October 8, 2012. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine