NBC’s Sunday Night Football gets a treat next week, when the Bears host the Houston Texans.
Both teams are 7-1. Both teams talent at premium positions like quarterback, running back and receiver.
But one of the top story lines will be two defenders who appear to be Defensive Player of the Year candidates.
The Bears have cornerback Charles Tillman and the Texans have defensive end J.J. Watt, and they’re both having special seasons.
Watt leads the NFL with 10 1/2 sacks, 10 passes defended, and he’s recovered two fumbles.
Tillman leads the NFL with seven forced fumbles, he’s returned both of his interceptions for touchdowns, and he’s defended six other passes.
Naturally, Bears teammates are biased about who they like for Defensive Player of the Year.
“You know the answer to that question,” Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said. “Peanut all day. I think we are all seeing history being made.
“I’ve never seen anybody who’s been able to do the things he’s able to do, and to do it so consistently.”
Watt had a sack, two tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries in a 21-9 victory over the Buffalo Bills Sunday.
Tillman had a career-high four forced fumbles against the Tennessee Titans. He now has 36 for his career, passing Julius Peppers and Dwight Freeney of the Indianapolis Colts for second most since 2003. Robert Mathis of the Colts is first with 38.
“It’s different because most of mine come from the blind side of the quarterback and getting strips that way,” Peppers said. “He does it while the guy is looking at him and trying to run him over. He does it in a different way so I think it makes it a little more impressive on his part.”