Detroit Lions-Chicago Bears Week 7 Preview: Who Has the Advantage?
Detroit Lions-Chicago Bears Week 7 Preview
The Bears (4-1) are for the moment sitting alone at the top of the NFC North division with the surprising Minnesota Vikings nipping at their heels, followed by the 3-3 Green Bay Packers. Detroit (2-3) is last in the division, but they are riding the momentum of a much-needed victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Chicago is looking to separate themselves from everyone else in the division with a win, while Detroit is trying to stay alive in the hunt for the NFC North division title.
The first meeting between these two teams last season was also on Monday Night Football, with the Lions prevailing over the Bears by the score of 24-13 in the Motor City. Detroit will be looking for a repeat performance of last year’s Monday night showdown, however, Chicago is going do to everything in their power to prevent that from happening.
Looking at each phase of the game, the Bears seem to have every advantage in this divisional matchup. This game has the word “blowout” written all over it. However, this assumption comes from just observing everything on paper. Actually playing the game is a different story.
Since we’ll have to wait a few more days for the actual outcome, let me run a breakdown of every position to show who has the advantage in this highly anticipated battle.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is looking more and more comfortable as the weeks go along with his favorite target wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The past two games, Cutler has thrown for 567 yards and four touchdowns. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford has thrown for an impressive 630 yards in his last two games, but hasn’t had much success putting the ball in the end zone, even with All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Considering the fact that Chicago’s secondary is playing at a high level, and Detroit’s defensive backfield continues to struggle defending the pass, Cutler should easily outduel his counterpart in their first meeting of the season.
Both Matt Forte and Michael Bush have equally contributed to Chicago’s running game so far this season. Forte was sidelined with an ankle injury earlier this season, and Bush stepped in, proving that he can carry the load if need be. In addition, Forte adds another dimension with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. These two are the reason why the Bears are 10th in the NFL in rushing. As for the Lions, their top rusher, Mikel Leshoure, has only 196 yards on the season, and will have to find a way to get through Chicago’s number one ranked rush defense.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Unfortunately, for the Bears, rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery will be inactive due to a hand injury. However, this shouldn’t affect Chicago’s receiving corps. Brandon Marshall, who was teammates with Jay Cutler while with the Denver Broncos, is on pace to break all of the Bears’ single-season receiving records and should run wild against Detroit’s weak secondary. Along with one familiar face comes another. Wide receiver Earl Bennett, who was Cutler’s college teammate at Vanderbilt, will bring his sure handedness to the lineup. Detroit’s Calvin Johnson will be a handful for the Bears’ secondary, but outside of him, the Lions don’t pose much of a threat against a Chicago defense that leads the league with 15 interceptions.
The one thing that could keep the Bears from being successful in this game, and for the rest of the season, is the inconsistent play of their offensive line. The Bears are known for having one of the worse o-lines in the league, and so far, Chicago has given up 14 sacks. I believe the weakest link of the Bears’ offensive front is left tackle J’Marcus Webb. The three-year veteran is constantly getting help from backs and tight ends in pass-blocking assignments, which limits the options Cutler has in the passing game. The Lions’ offensive line has shown better consistency in pass protection only surrendering nine sacks on the season.
The Bears’ defense is currently fifth in the league in sacks with 18, 16 of which has come from the defensive line. Normally, the first person mentioned on Chicago’s d-line is Julius Peppers. The Pro Bowl defensive end is still one of the best in the business, but the emergence of defensive tackle Henry Melton and defensive end Corey Wootton has drawn attention. Melton leads Chicago with 4.5 sacks, while Wootton is second with 3.0. The Lions’ Ndamukong Suh is hands down the best interior defensive lineman in the league, and is bound to cause havoc on Chicago’s offensive line. Nonetheless, the constant pressure that the Bears’ front four causes frees up the rest of the defense to defend the pass and cause turnovers.
Even though Chicago’s Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher isn’t putting up big numbers so far this season, the Bears’ linebacking corps is still dangerous in both defending the run and the pass. Chicago’s average of 65.8 rushing yards per game allowed is tops in the NFL, and thanks to the pass rush, Bears linebackers can help cover running backs and tight ends in pass coverage The obvious standout in this group is Lance Briggs. The seven-time Pro Bowler leads Chicago in tackles with 29, and has returned two interceptions for touchdowns. Detroit’s group of linebackers are neither as decorated as Chicago’s, nor are they as talented. This is an easy one.
The return of Lions free safety Louis Delmas should give Detroit’s secondary a boost of inspiration. Unfortunately, that’s about all the Lions defensive backs will get. As for Chicago, they hope to add to their league-leading 13 interceptions. Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, just like Lance Briggs, has returned two interceptions for touchdowns this season. On the other side of the field, cornerback Tim Jennings has picked off four passes, and is tied for first in the NFL in interceptions. Strong safety Major Wright isn’t too far behind with three picks of his own, and second-year free safety Chris Conte has chipped in with one interception. The ball-hawking Bears should continue to be a thorn in the side of Matthew Stafford. The last time Stafford faced the Bears in Soldier Field, he was intercepted four times, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
Detroit has displayed the worst kick coverage in the league this season. In Weeks 3 and 4, the Lions gave up a total of four returns for touchdowns (two kickoff returns and two punt returns). This looks to be a recipe of disaster for Detroit. Chicago return specialist Devin Hester is one touchdown return away from setting an all-time NFL record for most returns for a touchdown in a career. Hester is probably licking his chops, eagerly anticipating his date with destiny this Monday night. If the Lions are dumb enough to kick to Hester more than once, then the Bears could be the third team this season to return a kickoff and a punt in the same game against the Lions this season.
Bears head coach Lovie Smith has shown why he is still worthy of still being Chicago’s coach. Despite speculation from some people, he has led the Bears to one of the best records in the league. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice has implemented an offensive game plan that puts the ball in the hands of the Bears’ best players at the appropriate times. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has Chicago playing the best defense that Bears fans have seen in years. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and his staff haven’t found a way to consistently get the ball to their best player in Calvin Johnson once their offense gets within striking distance. As a result, the Lions are cellar-dwellers in the NFC North.
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