Bears offense vs. Lions defense
The Bears have been nearly unstoppable on offense this year as their defense has been holding them back from being one of the top teams in the league. Coming off the bye week, they should have had extra time to fine tune some things heading into the second half of the season. The running game has been struggling each and every week since early in the season, and despite the fact that Matt Forte was held to just 36 yards rushing a month ago against these Lions, I really think this is a game in which they can turn things around. The Lions are second-to-last against the run, giving up 162 rushing yards per game. Time is ticking away before the cold weather hits Chicago and sooner than later, they’re going to need the running game to show up because a dip in the passing statistics is to be expected. If the Bears can jump out to a big enough lead early, perhaps they can get extra work in that area. And maybe we’ll see a little of first round draft pick Chris Williams, who is expected to be active Sunday.
Bears defense vs. Lions offense
This is the ideal game for the Bears defense to emerge from its slump. It’s one of the worst teams in the league and they’ll be able to try new looks or blitz packages to see if it helps generate the stagnant pass rush. There’s only one offensive weapon to worry about and that’s wide receiver Calvin Johnson. With the probable return of Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher, the Bears shouldn’t have trouble covering the Lions’ wideouts. Look for the Bears to shut down the Lions’ run game. The Bears have the sixth-best run defense in the league and the Lions are only averaging 74 yards per game, good enough for second-worst in the NFL. In short, it’s not likely the Lions will have success moving the ball, allowing the Bears’ defense to stay fresh on the sideline, assuming they can fix some of their pass defense deficiencies.
Just some quick statistics: the Lions are 27th in kick return average and 23rd in punt returns. Jason Hanson has just 9 field goals through 7 games whereas punter Nick Harris is tied with his winless counterpart from Cincinnati, Kyle Larson, with 44 total punts this year. Add 7 interceptions and 2 lost fumbles to those punts, and that equals 53 turnovers — or turnovers on downs. That comes out to about 2 per quarter — one of the worst ratios in the league. Meanwhile, we say it every week, but it holds true: the Bears have one of the best kickers and top punters, the most dangerous return man in history, and solid coverage teams. Big edge for the Bears.
These are the games that make you a little nervous. They’re the ones that the Bears shouldn’t lose, but there are no guarantees in football. Look no further than the Giants’ upset of the Patriots in last year’s Super Bowl. Imagine a scenario where the Bears give Detroit their first win, only to hand Tennessee their first loss a week later. It could happen. It’s not likely, but in a parity-driven league, we’ve seen stranger things. Following a bye week, the Bears have to avoid coming out flat. If the Lions keep this game close, then one wrong bounce of the football could cost the game. So it’s up to the Bears to jump out to an early lead and protect their home field. If the defense can gather a turnover or two in the first half and the offense gets a comfortable lead, we could see Forte seal the deal in the second half. Ideally, I would like to see the Bears with a huge advantage late in the game so they can get Chris Williams some live playing time. I just have a feeling that this game will be closer than the one in Detroit, but the Bears should prevail.
Final Score: Chicago 27, Detroit 17