The 2-1 Lions welcome the 3-0 Bears into Ford Field for an important statement game against a division foe in these still early weeks of the NFL season. Essentially this game is worth twice as much given the divisional game and it’s role as a pace setter in the NFC North.
It’s all on the table this year for Detroit, they are facing a team in the Bears that has almost won 60% of the games between the two teams good for a 96-65-5 record. Chicago even beat Detroit in both games last year 13-7 and 26-24. To go a step further, do you realize Jay Cutler is 7-1 against the Lions? He simply owns Detroit.
Scouting the Bears
The Bears have injuries to important players. Defensive tackle Henry Melton is out for the year and corner back Charles Tillman is banged up as well. However Tillman’s injury really makes no difference as he’ll likely play and make an impact as he does in every game against the Lions. Tillman is simply the best turnover creator in the NFL. So Detroit will have to protect the football if they expect to win this game. Not to mention if you’re a plus in the turnover category you win almost 80% of your games, if you are +2 you almost never lose. That little factoid comes courtesy of Bears new head coach Marc Trestman, formally of the CFL but a respected offensive coordinator in the NFL when the Raiders made a trip to the Super Bowl back in 2002. Trestman’s biggest impact though probably has come to Jay Cutler who had a 60% completion rate with Brandon Marshall last year, this year it’s 74% so far.
Detroit cannot sleep on this Bears Defense either. Yes Brian Urlancher is retired but you still have safety Major Wright coming into his own while a very underrated Lance Briggs is still holding down the hash marks. Some of the names on this defense has changed but creating turnovers and the overall scheme is the same.
Who replaces Nate Burleson?
Brandon Pettigrew and not Ryan Broyles is the guy to replace injured wide out Nate Burleson’s production. First off, Burleson was a possession guy and someone to move the chains. He would work the sideline, the middle and find open space for Matthew Stafford. Pettigrew has the body to always be open even when covered. Yes, I know I’ve spent the better part of 2 years telling you why he should be gone but the fact of the matter is he’s here and the Lions must find a way to use him. This is also essentially Pettigrew’s last chance to prove he is an NFL starter and show his skill set to work the sidelines, get in favorable matchups and play the opened middle of the field with this offense. Also it’s his lack of focus and not bad hands that’s caused the drops. He’s actually made some impressive catches for Detroit throughout his pro career, the drops though come as a result of a lack of concentration.
This is why Broyles is not the guy. Broyles is his own guy. He has excellent hands and is a shifty slot receiver that would be taking out of a lot of plays if you expect him to play outside. He needs to be moved around and take advantage of match up. I love Broyles because he runs hard and is a hard worker. If he stays healthy, the Lions could have a real weapon in the slot, but only in the slot.
Keys to the Game
1. Stop Bears defensive end Julius Peppers. He isn’t what he use to be and the Lions have to make sure it stays that way. This is another test for Riley Reiff who has played well so far this season.
2. Stafford should be able to throw the football as the Bears are giving up almost 300 yards a game. The Lions will certainly miss Burleson’s production but it’s up to the receiving core and Stafford to make it go unnoticed.
3. Matt Forte has quietly been a beast. All he does is put up numbers. 225 rushing, 138 receiving and 2 TD’s. It’s simple, stop him.
4. Rattle Jay Cutler. If the Lions want to win the turnover battle Cutler can help with that. He is no stranger in throwing the ball to the wrong team. Suh this all starts with you.
5. The Bears have 2 rookies on the offensive line, one being Kyle Long. Suh… again you’re up. Suh’s path to rattling Cutler, is right through Long.
6. Take care of the ball and create turnovers. Turnovers being the right word because a turnover will not be enough. The Bears will get a turnover but the Lions will need to get at least two or three if they want to win this game.
Ford Field will be crazy and that should certainly help the Lions. With Reggie Bush back, Melton gone and Peanut Tillman banged up I like Detroit to slide into first place in the NFC North with a 31- 28 dog fight. Chicago can score points but they are giving them up too. The game against the Bengals was impressive but if wasn’t for 5 turnovers in the Pittsburgh game it’s a loss. Same theory with the Vikings game and I’m sorry I have little respect for a Christian Ponder Quarterbacked team that took the Bears to the wire.