In Week 10 of the NFL season, the Detroit Lions travel to Soldier Field to face one of their three-team first place tie holders, the Chicago Bears. Both teams are 5-3 and looking to take control of the NFC North division. Quarterback Matthew Stafford stunned the Dallas Cowboys with a last-minute touchdown drive and Chicago’s Jay Cutler is returning to the field less than three weeks after a groin muscle tear sustained against the New York Giants.
Today will be the 168th time the Lions and Bears have gone to battle with each other in a rivalry that dates back to 1930. The Lions won 40-32 at Ford Field when they met earlier this year. Lions’ running back Reggie Bush had 173 total yards during that game, and Detroit comes to Soldier Filed hoping to repeat that performance.
Fifth year Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford put up 488 yards against the Cowboys in Week 8. He completed 33 of 48 passes and scored one passing touchdown. His own offensive line didn’t know he was going to dive over them for the game-winning touchdown at the goal line in at home. That made for his third rush in the game, and snatched a game most people considered over right from under Dallas.
|QB Stats||Completions/Attempts||Yards||Yards per Att||TD||Int||Sacks/Yards Lost||QBR|
Stafford has the elite wide receiver in the league on his side in Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. Johnson destroyed the Cowboys’ secondary racking up 329 yards on 14 receptions. That is including a catch at the 1-yard line in that game winning drive. In seven games this season Johnson has 47 receptions for 821 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 17.5 yards per reception.
The Bears defense and secondary will have their hands full with Megatron. The Cleveland Browns kept him to three receptions in Week 6, and in their previous game the Bears limited him to four, but the Lions won both games anyway. So Johnson, while significant, cannot be the sole focus of the Bears defense today.
Former Saint Reggie Bush must also be contained. Bush has 119 rushes for 518 yards this year and two touchdowns. He also has 31 catches for 335 yards, averaging over 10 yards per reception and another two touchdowns through the air. Bush proved himself an asset in the New Orleans Saints’ Super Bowl run and seems to have found a home in Detroit.
The Lions have a turnover ratio of +1, so they have to work harder to maintain ball control. The Bears are one of the best team at take-aways (+8). With Cutler returning so soon from such a painful injury, the D-line needs to pressure him hard and make him move more than he may be comfortable doing.
Stafford must utilize every weapon at his disposal and spread the ball around. The Bears are not likely to leave Johnson uncovered, and indeed may take a leaf from Cleveland’s book and double or even triple cover him. Hands are going to be important, because those passes have to be caught, and yards after the catch will be crucial to gaining control of the field and the game.
Third-down conversion failures saw the Lions fall behind in the Dallas game and they are currently 45 of 106 and only 2 of 6 on fourth down. They have to get into manageable third down situations and keep the ball moving down field to have a hope of moving ahead in the tie.
|Team Stats||1st Downs||YardsRush/Pass/Ttl||TDs||Sacks||Turnover Ratio||Time/Poss|
The Bears are playing their first game at home in a month. After the upset win over the Green Bay Packers, the Bears are riding high. Chicago wants to win a second game in a row and with the quick return of franchise quarterback Jay Cutler, no one in that locker room doubts he will be in top form.
Is he ready to face the Lions’ pass rush, however? The Bears offensive line has to stand up the Lions and keep DeAndre levy and Ndamukong Suh away from Cutler. He may be back, but a torn muscle is not something any man can recover from within the timeframe he has. We are talking about a highly sensitive area that sees more work than we may realize until it doesn’t work right. Cutler will be tender, he may be hesitant, and protecting him is more crucial now than ever.
Brandon Marshall has proven himself invaluable in the passing game, with 53 catches for 647 yards this season. He is averaging 12.2 yards per catch and has six touchdowns. Matt Forte on rushing has 140 carries netting 658 yards and seven touchdowns. Forte also has 40 catches for another 316 yards. On special teams, Devin Hester, one of the best punt returner in the game, hands down, has 10 returns, his longest at 8 yards and has scored a touchdown as well.
These weapons, along with so many others, were instrumental in the Packers game and in every win the Bears have had this year. With Cutler back at the helm, the playbook opens back up and the Lions will have to be on guard against the smash-mouth man-handling the Bears are capable of delivering at every position.
The Bears are experts at forcing turnovers and this has played a huge part in their success. Stafford, Johnson and Bush all have targets on them and every moment they have the ball is a chance for the Bears to employ their skills to take it away. The Bears’ D-line had two rookies in the win over Green Bay, but they did not play like rookies. The game-ending sack of backup Seneca Wallace proves that in spades.
The Lions have snagged 10 interceptions this year, thanks to pressure up the middle from Suh and Company. While the Bears have nothing but confidence in Cutler’s return, it is a wait and see situation. The Lions cannot discount or underestimate him. It is beyond belief that Coach Marc Trestman would risk such a valuable and talented player for the sake of wins, or that Cutler would risk himself.
For this divisional match-up, we have two teams on the cusp of dominating the NFC North going head to head. The Bears and Lions both have tools and weapons at their disposal that can see them succeed against the other. If Cutler was sitting out this week, even with McCown’s excellent showing in Green Bay we would have to give the game to the Lions on the strength of their Stafford. With Cutler in the line-up, things are far more balanced. It is so balanced, in fact, that the game may be too close to call. With Cutler’s return and their recent success, the Bears have an edge. They are also playing at home. With that in mind, we give this game to Chicago by a slim margin.
By Brandi Tasby