by Carlos Nazario
The Bears start the second half of this season against the Detroit Lions with the same hope and optimism they had in Week 1. It is amazing, considering the up and down first half they have just gone through.
In the first 5 games of the season, the Bears had a 2-3 record and were 3 games behind both the Green Bay Packers and the Lions. They had a horrible time trying to find a balance of runs to passes. The offensive line allowed 18 sacks of Jay Cutler. The Bears defense against the run, usually near the top, was ranked 26th and only had 8 sacks. The playoffs looked like a lost dream.
Suddenly, things turned around the last 3 games. They have won those 3 games. They could tie with the Lions with a win this Sunday. They are having a good balance of runs and passes. The offensive line has only allowed 3 sacks. The Bears are now 11th and have gotten 7 sacks. They also own the final playoff spot, with head-to-head tie breakers against the Falcons, Buccaneers, and Eagles.
The Bears faced the Lions in Week 5 at Detroit. The offense was a mess, committing 9 false start penalties. Cutler was running for his life and did his best to keep his team in the game. The defense gave up a 73 yard touchdown reception to Calvin Johnson and an 88 yard touchdown run to Jahvid Best. They ultimately lost the game 24-13.
Times have changed. The Lions are 1-2 since that game in Detroit. Calvin Johnson, who had 9 touchdown receptions in the first 5 games, has had 2 in his last 3. Jahvid Best has only played once in the last 3 games due to another concussion. The Bears have been trending up while the Lions have been going down.
Now that the Bears have shored up their run defense, they can concentrate on going after Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Putting pressure on him and making him make decisions quicker than he is used to will help the Bears from getting beat with a big play. With all the offensive problems the Bears had in Detroit, take away the big plays and the outcome could have been different.
Cutler is playing with tremendous confidence right now. He has been protected, and has his security blanket, wide receiver Earl Bennett, back from injury. Last week against the Eagles, Bennett had some crucial catches, including the game winning touchdown in the 4th quarter. He could have another big game.
Matt Forte continues to play like a man possessed. He had 150 all-purpose yards against the Eagles as he continues his “Pay Forte” movement. He and Marion Barber have proved to work well together. With Forte and Barber playing alongside each other, the Bears average 28 points/game. Without them together the average is 20 points/game. The extra attention paid to that duo opens things up for the passing game.
The Lions are out to prove that the first half of the season was not a fluke. The Bears are out to prove that they truly are contenders. FOX Sports certainly thought it would be a good game. As part of the NFL’s flex scheduling, the start time to this game was changed from 1 PM/Eastern game to 4:15 PM/Eastern, which will attract a larger audience.
Perhaps the commissioner might want to take a look at this game. The Lions have earned a reputation as a team that does not mind taking a penalty for a hard hit, and the Bears have shown that they will not back down. Expect a hard-hitting, intense game. My prediction: Bears 23 Lions 17.