by Carlos Nazario
This week’s matchup between the Chicago Bears (2-2) at Detroit Lions (4-0) may be the turning point in each franchise’s season. The Bears are looking to get on a roll and make a run to defend their NFC North crown, and the Lions want to make a statement that they are for real.
It should be rocking and rolling at Ford Field in Detroit. The Lions have not played before a nationally televised game on Monday Night Football since 2001. In that game, the Lions lost 35-0, so they are not looking for a repeat of that performance.
The Lions are coming off of two consecutive big comeback wins against the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys. The Bears must make sure they keep the Lions down if they knock them down early. This is a scrappy Lions team that just does not quit, no matter the deficit.
The Bears defense has struggled for the last 3 weeks, and will be severely tested this week. The Lions have Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron, who has 8 touchdown grabs in the first 4 games. With safety Chris Harris out because of an injured hamstring, receivers have been having a field day with the Bears secondary. In addition to that, the Bears defensive line has not put enough pressure on the quarterbacks lately. In the season opener, the Bears defense collected 5 sacks. In the 3 games after that, they have had only 3, including none against the Carolina Panthers last week.
Without the pressure, Johnson will be able to get open and make his great catches. Matthew Stafford is the same type of pocket quarterback, not-too-mobile thrower that Atlanta’s Matt Ryan is and that might help the Bears defense get to him. If they can get to him and knock his rhythm off, the Bears could get him to make bad decisions.
The Lions do not have a good running game. They have a total of 288 rushing yards, and Matt Forte alone had 205 yards LAST WEEK. If the Bears can make them a one-dimensional team they should have success on defense.
On offense, the Bears offensive line once again will be important. The Lions have very good players on the defensive line with Kyle Vanden Bosch and pro bowl defensive tackle Ndamkukong Suh. Suh has a reputation of being a dirty player so the line will have its hands full just with him. If they can open up holes like they did against Carolina, Matt Forte and Marion Barber should have another good game.
If the line can control the Lions defensive front, then quarterback Jay Cutler should be able to find open receivers. The Lions secondary has also been burned, allowing 66% of opponents’ passes to be completed. If Cutler is not forced to run for his life (and that will only happen if there is a good balance of run/pass plays), the Lions will allow a receiver to get open.
The difference in this game may be the special teams. Both teams have kickers who so far have been perfect in their field goals so it should be interesting if it comes down to that. The Bears have the greatest returner in history in Devin Hester, so I do not see the Lions kicking to him. Johnny Knox is as fast and explosive as Hester and has shown flashes of great running, so he may break one.
This should be a great matchup between NFC North rivals. The Bears are out to prove they are still contenders and the Lions are out to prove they are finally contenders. There should be some hard hits and special plays. Keep in mind that without two incredible comebacks, the Lions would be 2-2 like the Bears. They better hope they do not get down early the way they have in the last two weeks or they will have a long day. The Bears are the more experienced team and it should show down the stretch. It could be a long season if it doesn’t.
My prediction: Bears 19 Lions 17.