(WSCR) – The Bears were heavily criticized as being a team benefiting from a weak schedule. However, after winning four straight games, including a win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the Bears are gaining national respect. Apparently, that respect hasn’t been felt by Lions receiver Nate Burleson.
The Chicago Bears had plenty of reasons to be motivated this week to beat the Detroit Lions.
Chicago is closing in on its first NFC North championship since winning a second straight in 2006 and its road to the title will get tougher after rolling out of the Motor City.
Then, receiver Nate Burleson opened his mouth.
He prodded the Bears by guaranteeing a victory Sunday at home against them.
“They can take it as bulletin material if they want, but we play to win the game,” Burleson said. “I’m not going to tell you that I hope we win or we’re going to lose in a close battle.”
Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs said he was glad Burleson made his prediction public.
“It should fire them up. I know it definitely fires us up,” Briggs said. “We’ve got it pinned up everywhere in our meeting rooms.”
Briggs knows all too well how such guarantees can backfire after making one in 2004 before playing the Indianapolis Colts, only to get routed.
“I’m not going to guarantee any more wins,” he said.
The Bears (8-3) might not have a better shot to earn a victory the rest of the regular season than they’ll have against the lowly Lions (2-7) and their third-string quarterback. Of the 11 NFC teams that started the week within a game of first place or a .500 record, Chicago and the New Orleans Saints were tied for having the stiffest competition left on their schedules.
The Bears, who have a one-game lead over Green Bay in the division, close the season against New England, at Minnesota, vs. the New York Jets before the finale at the Packers.
Chicago coach Lovie Smith doesn’t want his players looking too far ahead, but he doesn’t mind them thinking about getting back to the Super Bowl after three years without postseason play.
“We can’t run from it, we don’t want them to run from it,” Smith said. “But you don’t talk about that now.”
The Lions are still talking about their season-opening loss at Chicago, where Calvin Johnson’s apparent touchdown was ruled incomplete because the officials decided he didn’t complete the catch.
“I think everything that happens in a season motivates you to some extent,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. “I think that our players know what happened in that game and they know the way that game ended. I would be very disappointed if we didn’t come out and try to prove that the first game was a game that we should have won.”
The Lions will try to win the rematch without Matthew Stafford, whose right shoulder was banged up for the first of two times in Chicago, and backup Shaun Hill, out with an injured finger on his right hand.
By default, Drew Stanton will start for the first time this season and just the second since former general manager Matt Millen selected him in the second round of the 2007 draft out of Michigan State.
“The big thing in this league is about getting opportunities and making the most of them,” Stanton said. “I’m looking forward to showcasing my abilities and, more importantly, to help this team win.”
Jay Cutler has led the Bears to a 3-0 record against Detroit in his two seasons with them, throwing eight touchdowns and only one interception. Against the rest of the league, Cutler is 11-12 with 35 TDs and 35 interceptions for Chicago.
If Cutler can avoid an upset in Detroit, the 27-year-old QB is guaranteed a winning record for the first time since he was a senior at Heritage High School in Lincoln City, Ind.
Cutler, though, wants more than that because he believes the Bears can win their first Super Bowl since the 1985 team went 15-1 and dominated three teams in the playoffs.
“You’ve got to believe that,” Cutler said. “If you don’t believe that then there’s no use playing right now.”
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