- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Monday night game features a pair of defenses that rank among the worst in the league in large part because they have been decimated by injuries. In this case, the Cowboys arguably have a significant advantage.
The injury woes for the Dallas defense have been bad. There’s no doubt that medical issues have played a major role in the Cowboys ranking last in the NFL in total defense (421.6 yards per game) and 21st in scoring defense (25.3 points).
That’s especially true for the Cowboys’ defensive line, with projected starters Jay Ratliff and Anthony Spencer playing a grand total of 38 snaps this season, all by Spencer in his one outing before going on IR. Key reserves Tyrone Crawford and Ben Bass have spent the entire season on injured reserve. DeMarcus Ware missed three games, the first time in his career an injury sidelined him. Jason Hatcher missed a game.
Four other key players -- linebackers Sean Lee and Justin Durant, cornerback Morris Claiborne and safety J.J. Wilcox -- have missed a combined 12 games due to injuries. The good news for the Cowboys is that all of those players except for Claiborne are available Monday night against the Bears, although star middle linebacker Lee is the only one who is still a starter.
The good news for the Bears? Um, Ratliff is ready to roll after chipping off some rust last week, having signed with the Bears after a miraculous recovery on the heels of being released by the Cowboys when he insisted he wouldn't be able to play this season.
Chicago’s defense, which was dominant last season, is still in shambles. They Bears have fallen to 29th in total defense (386.0 yards) and 29th in scoring defense (27.7 points) after ranking in the top five of both categories last season.
The Bears are missing Pro Bowlers at each level of their defense. Defensive tackle Henry Melton has been on injured reserve since Week 3 due to a knee injury. Cornerback Charles Tillman, who has forced the most turnovers of any NFL defender the last decade, has been on IR since Week 10 due to a triceps injury. Outside linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) will miss his sixth consecutive game.
The Bears’ leftovers have been pretty bad against the pass and awful against the run. Chicago’s rushing defense ranks dead last in the league, allowing 153.6 yards per game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Bears have allowed 3.9 yards per carry with Briggs and 6.6 yards per carry without him.
The Cowboys’ injury woes have been exploited often this season. It’s time for them to benefit from another team's pain Monday night.