Where: Soldier Field, Chicago (grass, outdoors)
When: Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
Spread: Bears by 1 1/2
Forecast: Temperatures in the 40s with rain likely.
Records: Bears (7-1, 1-1 in NFC North); Texans (7-1, 2-0 in AFC South)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Dec. 28, 2008: Texans 31, Bears 24; Dec. 19, 2004: Texans 24, Bears 5. Series Record: Texans lead, 2-0.
What matters: The Bears own a six-game winning streak and attempt to add to their 1 1/2-game lead over idle Green Bay. They need to make a statement as they have beaten only one team with a winning record (Indianapolis) and are coming off their most dominant effort to date, a 51-20 win over a Tennessee Titans team that Houston beat 38-14. The game for the Bears comes down to whether their offensive line can more effectively block a strong 3-4 defense than it did against Green Bay earlier, and whether QB Jay Cutler and WR Brandon Marshall can beat the two-man coverage they're sure to see in the secondary. Also, the Bears defense that ranks first in creating turnovers (28) and in stopping opponents in the red zone, will be tested by the most balanced offense it has faced this season -- one that has committed the fewest turnovers (6).
Who matters: Cutler and the offense scored 37 of the 51 Bears points last week, but had to travel only 16, 8 and 2 yards for three of their four TDs, so there are questions whether they actually have improved. Cutler, who is the only Bear to turn over the ball this year, needs to be sharp from the outset of this game. ... RB Matt Forte is coming off his second 100-yard game of the year and WR Brandon Marshall his fourth 100-yard receiving game. Marshall is second in the NFL with 797 receiving yards. ... CB Charles Tillman, with the upcoming birth of a child on his mind, has to try to follow up on a four-forced fumble performance at Tennessee against a Texans offense that values the football, and has lost just one fumble.
Key matchups: Bears WR Marshall against Texans CB Johnathan Joseph. The Texans' preference is to play man-to-man defense and they tried that with Green Bay but it failed miserably. Most teams are defending the Bears with two-man zone or two-deep rather than a man-to-man, but given the Texans' preferences, the 5-foot-11, 189-pound Joseph will spend much of the time around the 6-5 Marshall. Marshall hasn't lit up teams with Joseph, a former Bengal, on them. He's had only one game with more than five catches vs. Joseph's teams.
Bears CB Charles Tillman on Houston WR Andre Johnson. It looks like the matchup of Tillman against Megatron earlier in the year, but Andre Johnson isn't quite as big (6-3) as Calvin Johnson and doesn't make it as easy for Tillman to be physical in his coverage. Johnson had 10 catches for 148 yards and two TDs in their last battle in 2008. Tillman had one of his worst games of the season that day, as the Bears lost one they had to win to make the playoffs. With the Bears defense focusing so much on stopping RB Arian Foster, Tillman will not have as much safety help over the top against Johnson as he did against Megatron. It'll be a one-man show.
Bears G Lance Louis on Texans DE J.J. Watt. The Watt swat has become common as his long arm and deflections have led to INTs for Houston when he's not sacking the QB. In the 3-4, he lines up over one of the guards. Louis has been the most effective Bears offensive lineman this season and he'll need to be as physical as possible with the 6-5, 295-pound Watt. He needs to block Watt low to prevent pass deflections.
LB Brian Urlacher on TE Owen Daniels. The Texans like to go for Daniels in the red zone or in seam routes. Urlacher's speed has come into question all year, although he's actually been fine in coverage -- it's going laterally against stretch plays and screen passes where it's shown up most. Daniels, though, has a hip injury and may or may not play. The Texans can use any of three tight ends, but Daniels is the best threat down the field and has 5 TD catches.
Injuries of note: WR Alshon Jeffery (hand fracture) will miss his third straight game. DT Matt Toeaina (calf) has not practiced and is likely to be inactive. DT Henry Melton (back) and DE Israel Idonije (knee) have practiced this week and should be able to play.
Inside stuff: The Bears will not get the chance to play much cover-2 unless they get well ahead, and will likely be in a lot of single-safety coverage due to Houston's running game. They also may get S Craig Steltz onto the field more than in recent games, and use nickel back Kelvin Hayden more than D.J. Moore because of his better size and tackling ability if Houston runs or throws screens in passing situations.
Connections: Bears CB Sherrick McManis, the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week, spent two seasons in Houston. DT Amobi Okoye played four seasons for the Texans. Texans S Danieal Manning was a second-round Bears draft pick in 2006 and FB Tyler Clutts played for the Bears last year.
Stat you should know: The Bears lead the NFL in starting field position on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, while the Texans are last in the NFL in starting field position both offensively and defensively -- largely an indication of a special teams mismatch, but also a sign of the field position provided to the Bears offense with all the turnovers caused by their defense.
Record watch: Devin Hester remains one behind Deion Sanders for the most combined TD returns (INT-fumble-kick-punt) in NFL history but goes against Texans coverage units that are 23rd defending punts and 20th defending kickoffs.
Bulletin board quote: "Matt Schaub is a great quarterback, but like any quarterback, he can be got." -Bears DB Kelvin Hayden
Looking ahead: The Bears travel to San Francisco for a second straight game against a division leader when they play the 49ers on Monday Night Football.
Prediction: Texans 16, Bears 13
Follow Bears reporter Gene Chamberlain on Twitter @CBSBears.