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Cowboys vs. Bears: Keys to the game

The three matchups that will likely decide the Monday night game between Dallas and Chicago.

Ronald Martinez - Getty Images

Right now you could say the Cowboys and Bears are two very similar teams. Both have been receiving excellent play on the defensive side of the football, but each offense has struggled to open it up and play consistently.

Every football game is like a war, with every play being a battle within that war. Here are some of the key areas and battles that I will be watching for this Monday night:

Dallas O-Line vs Chicago D-Line

The Cowboys attempted to upgrade the interior of the offensive line when they signed offensive guards Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings. Bernadeau has been a major disappointment, but Livings looks like he was a great signing.

The Bears lead the NFL with 14 sacks and have a premier pass rusher in Julius Peppers. It will be interesting to see how the Bears decide to employ Peppers in this game. Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith is only in his second season, his first at left tackle. While Smith is extremely talented, his inexperience at left tackle could pose an advantage for the Bears.

Right tackle Doug Free has arguably been the worst offensive lineman on the Cowboys this year. Free needs to drastically improve his technique. A lot of the hits Tony Romo has taken have come from the right side. The Bears may try to exploit and attack Free on Monday night.

The Dallas Secondary vs. The Chicago WR's

The Cowboys took a major loss to their defense when safety Barry Church was lost for the season after suffering an injury to his Achilles tendon. Church was well on his way to a breakout season, and Rob Ryan will now have to become creative at the safety position.

Ryan began to move cornerback Brandon Carr back to safety even before Church left the game last week. Even though he is the Cowboys best cover cornerback, his athleticism and physicality allow him to shift over to safety.

Dallas is extremely deep at cornerback with Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick. They can play press and man to man coverage, allowing Ryan to open up the way he calls a game.

The Bears have a premier wide receiver in Brandon Marshall, and it will be interesting to see how Ryan game-plans against him.

Devin Hester is very inconsistent, but he has the big play ability that can change a game. Hester gave the Cowboys a lot of problems when they met back in 2010. Earl Bennett may miss this game, so expect to see Hester play a larger role in the offense.

He hasn't had a great season in 2012, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him have his breakout game against the Cowboys.

Jay Cutler vs. The Dallas Pass Rush

Cutler is a very talented quarterback with a golden arm, but he is also known as a turnover prone quarterback. The offensive line has been unable to protect Cutler this season. Left tackle J'Marcus Webb is having a tough time with pass rushers on the blindside, and he now faces one of the best pass rushers to ever play the game, DeMarcus Ware.

Cutler has been sacked 11 times in just three games this season; it's no coincidence that he also has thrown just three touchdown passes to six interceptions. Dallas has a great pass rushing combination in DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, but they are also getting production from defensive lineman Jason Hatcher and Sean Lissemore.

Even though the Bears offense is struggling, Cutler has the talent to take over this game. During their time in Denver, Cutler and Marshall were one of the best quarterback to wide receiver tandems in the NFL. The Cowboys must pressure Cutler and prevent him from hooking up with Marshall for big plays down the field.

Unlike Tony Romo who can extend plays and avoid pass rushers, Cutler isn't a very mobile quarterback. Cutler has publicly criticized his offensive line, and he is known to become emotional and irritated when you start hitting him. If the Cowboys can frustrate Cutler early on, then it could sway the game into their favor.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.