NFC North rivalries are usually messy affairs, and the upgrade the division has seen in quality and expectations over the last few years makes the Monday Night Football game between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears no different, although too many numbers from the past tell us this is going towards the home side.
First of all, there’s a matter of wins. Chicago have beaten Detroit at home on their last four games (winning by an average of 14.3 points), and have taken 7 of 8 in both cities against the Lions. Jay Cutler, not the most consistent of quarterbacks, has thrown 10 touchdowns and one interception while posting a 105.4 rating in his six games against the Lions in a Bears uniform. Matt Forte has gained 975 yards and scored 7 touchdowns in the last eight games vs Detroit. Lovie Smith is 8-2 on MNF.
The Detroit Lions have the obvious weapon of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, but things have been different this year. Stafford has thrown more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (4) so far this season, frustrated with the defenses he’s been seeing, and the field positions his defense is leaving him. Unless he starts playing a little more patiently, things aren’t going to be easier. Few defenses are as aggressive and attacking as the Bears’.
They lead the NFL with 13 interceptions and 17 takeaways overall, as their defense has scored five touchdowns so far. They’re not going to play man to man against Detroit, but rather the deep cover 2 the Lions seem to be seeing more and more of this season, because no one respects the Lions’ running game. Detroit gain 99.8 yards on the ground (19th in the NFL), but they have a very good offensive line and they need to start mixing things up with Kevin Smith (29 carries, 115 yards) and Mikel Leshoure (54 carries, 196 yards). Problem is the Bears have the best run defense in the NFL, allowing only 65.8 yards per game.
One thing that could upset the huge defensive edge the Bears have over the Lions is the offensive line problems the Bears have, allowing 14 sacks through the first six games of the season, with Jay Cutler being one to get easily frustrated when things don’t go his way and he feels there’s someone else to blame. The Lions’ offensive line has been dissapointing with their play this season (12 sacks) and seem to falter on third down situations, being over aggressive and easy to anticipate. A bit more intellgient decoys and tricks from them might make life harder for Cutler to deploy his vertical passing game.
Prediction – Despite the Lions coming up with the win against the Philadelphia Eagles, not enough players step up and try to do something different on this team, leaving it all up to Stafford and Johnson, which makes them exciting at times, predictable at others. Against a ball hawking defense like the Bears have, predictable is the worst possible thing you can be.