Monday Night Football Preview: Bears vs. Lions
The Detroit Lions are in the midst of a team-wide renaissance, as they have fought to an improbable 4-0 record a year after finishing 6-10 and third place in the NFC North. The good health of QB Matthew Stafford, the big-play capabilities of receiver Calvin Johnson, and a young, talented defense have all contributed heavily to their newfound success.
However, can the improving Lions show that they're for real against last year's NFC North Champion Bears? We take a look at some of the key things to watch in tonight’s big matchup.
When a team has an unstoppable receiver like Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, life gets exponentially easier for the offense. Johnson has caught two touchdown passes in four straight games, an NFL record.
How Chicago responds to Johnson's presence on the field will be huge in determining the outcome of the game.
Do the Bears double or even triple cover Johnson, leaving just one man on rookie speedster Titus Young? Or do they play their best defensive back, most likely Charles Tillman, up against the massive Johnson and simply hope that he can be contained? The situation is not ideal for the Bears’ defense.
The Bears have long been known for their physical, hard-nosed style of play. This means winning by defense and the running game. While QB Jay Cutler has been decent this season, he hasn't been the game changer that many expected him to be when he was traded from the Broncos. The offensive line also hasn't exactly excelled in pass blocking thus far, giving up 15 sacks. Accordingly, the Bears have been much more effective when they are running the ball. Their two wins this season have shown that when a strong running game is established and Cutler isn't forced to pass, the Bears have a much greater chance for success.
Expect them to attempt to establish this tonight against a Detroit run defense that has been merely average, and with RB Matt Forte coming off of a career day against the Panthers last weekend. This keepaway style of offense will prevent the ball from getting into the hands of the Lions’ playmakers and thus slow the pace of the game down. Detroit's running game is one of the worst in the league, so if they are forced into passing situations, Chicago may be able to take advantage with a stop or a turnover.
Anything can happen in the NFL, but it's hard to see the Lions dropping this one. They are playing at home, and simply have more playmakers on both sides of the ball. The porous Bears offensive line will get eaten alive by Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch, and hyped rookie Nick Fairley, who will be receiving his first playing time of the season.
On offense, the Lions are simply too diversified for the Bears to contain. If all else fails, Stafford to Johnson would work out just fine, as no team has yet to stop this deadly combination. Expect the Lions to pull away with this game in the second half.
Lions 24, Bears 13