The postseason is almost beyond the Bears' reach after two straight road losses to last-place teams. They probably have to win their four remaining games to have any chance of overtaking the Lions for the NFC North title. That starts with Monday night's game against the Cowboys at Soldier Field.
Here's our snapshot look at the game:
In the spotlight
The Bears offensive line has failed in recent weeks to execute several short-yardage runs that have affected the outcomes of losses to the Lions, Rams and Vikings.
"It's a physical element, but it's also a mental element," coach Marc Trestman said. "You have to be assignment-right. Our mistakes have not been a question of effort or being outmanned or anything like that. We've just got to do a better job in making sure we're blocking the right guys. "... and we haven't gotten it done. It's difficult to make a yard in this league like that."
Will the Cowboys commit to running the ball against a Bears defense that surrenders an NFL-worst 5.0 yards per carry?
The Cowboys this season under offensive coordinator and play-caller Bill Callahan have run 36.1 percent of the time. Only two teams have run it less frequently.
But with the National Weather Service forecasting an overnight low temperature Monday of 13 degrees -- and a colder wind chill -- the conditions could force the Cowboys to adjust their strategy away from the pass toward the run.
The Cowboys have averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry in each of their last four games, a span that coincides with the return of running back DeMarco Murray from a knee injury.
"Since he has been back, he has really looked good and provided a strong presence for us," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said in a teleconference Wednesday. "He's a very physical runner. He sees things and finds the softness in the defense and keeps runs alive. Always going north and south and finishing runs."
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was held out of practice Saturday as a precaution. Cutler did not experience any setback from practicing Thursday and Friday in his return from the high left ankle sprain he suffered Nov. 10, Trestman said.
"We just chose to rest him today," Trestman said. "It was a short practice today and a good time for him to just have a chance to bounce back a little bit."
Cutler and the Bears hope he will play next week on the road against the Browns, but Cutler's status has not been determined. He will be evaluated Monday.
Cutler was a limited participant Thursday and Friday, when he quarterbacked the scout team.
Said Trestman: "I can say that he did very well this week in the first part of this getting-back-into-it type of thing. And he didn't have any residual effects (Saturday) morning. There was no soreness or anything like that, which is good, and he worked pretty hard at it (in Friday's practice). So we can be optimistic, but we can't be definitive right now."
On defense, Major Wright is expected to start at safety. He missed last Sunday's loss to the Vikings because he strained a hamstring in practice two days earlier. Reserve safety Anthony Walters (groin) is questionable after being limited in practice all week.
Keep an eye on...
How well the quarterbacks are able to throw in the bitter cold. Bears quarterback Josh McCown won't wear a glove on his throwing hand.
"A good hand warmer obviously is important, and those little hot packets in there help," he said. "For me, I just want my hands to feel kind of warm, almost sweaty. That's when I feel good. Some guys like to go with gloves and experiment with those a little bit, but I like just going straight up and doing it like always."
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