Bears offense vs. Lions defense
The spark brought on by the new Lions regime quickly wore off by midseason. That’s when reality set in and it became clear to Detroit that there were still too many bad players left over from the Matt Millen era. The Lions are a vulnerable team, particularly on defense. Ranked last in the league against the pass and No. 24 against the run, the Lions have difficulty stopping anybody and the Bears should be able to do as they please. The game plan entering the contest should be to control the line of scrimmage and set the tempo for the game by establishing the run early and taking shots down the field when available. Matt Forte had his best game of the season when these teams met up at Soldier Field on Oct. 4. He not only logged his most rushing yards (121) and longest run from scrimmage (61), but he also scored one of his four rushing touchdowns on the season, too. He should have a lot of success today as well. It’ll be interesting to see how the return of Devin Hester has an effect on Devin Aromashodu’s playing time. Aromashodu essentially played Hester’s position the last two weeks that Hester has been out, so one of them will have to play elsewhere. Either way, with just Johnny Knox out, I expect Jay Cutler to use his full complement of receivers and distribute the ball nicely.
Bears defense vs. Lions offense
In the first half of the Vikings game last week, we saw a Bears defense we hadn’t seen all season. It was one that was inspired and looked like it had a purpose for the season. In the second half, though, it reminded me of the same porous defense we’ve grown accustomed to for much of the season. I think part of that second-half collapse has to do with Brett Favre and the Vikings offense being loaded with talent and executing better. If the Bears play defense against the Lions with the same type of effort and determination that they did against the Vikings, I have every confidence they can finish off Detroit in short order. The Bears’ pass defense is ranked No. 12 and, of course, that’s according to yards allowed. They’ve had their troubles getting off the field on third downs. It’s their run defense that has given them the most grief as they’re ranked two spots below the Lions’ run defense at No. 26. The Bears did okay not once but twice this year against Adrian Peterson, and the Lions don’t have a back like him. Running back Kevin Smith went down with a knee injury against the Ravens and Maurice Morris has been their primary ball carrier. Morris looked good against the Cardinals two weeks ago, racking up 126 yards on 17 carries, but 64 of those yards came on one run, which illustrates the need for the Bears to play disciplined football. There’s been question about which quarterback will start for the Lions this week with Matthew Stafford out, Daunte Culpepper or Drew Stanton. It sounds as though Culpepper will start, so the Bears will have to be prepared for a veteran who has had some success against them through the years, one that still has a little mobility and escape ability.
The Ridiculous One is back, or so it seems. Devin Hester appears ready to return to action as the kick returner with Danieal Manning and Johnny Knox sidelined by injuries. Detroit’s Ford Field is the scene of one of my favorite Hester kick returns where he ran into a pile for a split second and then broke free toward the sideline. He had the kicker in front of him and literally shoved him to the ground with one arm and continued down the sideline for the touchdown. That return epitomized what Hester used to be all about and if he indeed is returning kickoffs today, he needs to have that same motivation and determination to get his spark back. Hester likely will be handling the punt return duties as well, unless the coaching staff thinks that will be too much of a workload for him. Either way, the Bears seem to have the edge in the return game as well as the kicking game.
If the Lions are as serious about changing the culture of the organization as they said they were in the off-season, the coaching staff won’t allow its players to pack up and go home before playing a full 60 minutes against the Bears. Nothing should come easy for this Bears team, but the Lions are as bad a team as they’ve played all season. In short, this only will be a close game if the Bears allow it to be one. If they make careless mistakes like commit stupid penalties or turn over the ball, or if they allow the Lions to hang around for too long, they risk a letdown and an embarrassing loss. The Lions have sold out the game to avoid a local television blackout, but will everybody actually show up? And how into the game will the home crowd be? Chicago fans travel well, particularly to Detroit, so I don’t expect the crowd to be much of a factor for the Lions. The Bears have had a turnover problem this season and currently have a minus-8 turnover ratio, but the Lions have been even worse. Detroit is dead last with a minus-16 ratio, a big reason they only have won two games. I’m not sure even a few Cutler interceptions could bury the Bears in this one, unless the Bears defense isn’t taking the ball away. What the Bears decide to do in the off-season — which starts Monday for them — in terms of the coaching staff and/or front office personnel has probably already been determined by the ownership. But a loss to the Lions would certainly send shock waves through the organization and cap off an extremely disappointing season. I can’t see that happening, though.
Final Score: Chicago 27, Detroit 17
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