By Laurence Holmes-
(WSCR) Regular season games don’t get much bigger than this one.
This is the third in a series of games where the Bears will face a potential playoff challenger. They’ve won the last two vs. Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, but this one feels different. The game time moved from Noon to 3:15 — it’s divisional. Over the last year, it’s become a rivalry. I’m looking forward to this game and here are some of things I’ll be paying attention to:
Turnovers: The Lions have 18 takeaways this year. They rank No. 1 in the NFL for turnover margin (+13). Matthew Stafford does a good job of protecting the ball and throwing the ball away when under duress. The Bears want to take the ball away. It’s key to what they do defensively. The Bears have 14 takeaways this season and have done a great job over the last few games of jumping into passing lanes. That usually starts with pressure on the quarterback. They’ll need that to slow down the Lions offense.
Calvin Johnson vs. Charles Tillman: It was great to see the Bears be physical against the Eagles wideouts on Monday. Megatron presents a different set of problems. He’s bigger, stronger, has great hands and still has the elite speed of guys like Maclin & Jackson. I’m curious if the Bears will let Tillman jam Johnson at the line of scrimmage. I don’t expect they’ll play pure man. I expect the coverage would be bracketed with safety help over the top. Tillman loves to play the physical games and isn’t afraid to take on big receivers, we’ll see if the gameplan and flow of the game allows it.
Matt Forte vs. Lions run defense: The Lions don’t run the ball well and they don’t stop the run. Through their first eight games, Detroit is giving up an average of roughly 138 yards a game on the ground. As good as that defensive line is against the pass, and they are good, they don’t intimidate against the run. The Bears have been very successfull with a power run game in the last few weeks. Chris Williams and Chris Spencer have been great when they are on the move. Matt Spaeth has been really solid at setting the edge. The Lions play some Wide-9, similarly to the Eagles, there will be some big seams for Forte to bust. The challenge is that the Lions are more athletic in the middle of the defensive front than that Eagles are. Williams and Spencer will have to be quick and nasty.
Injuries: Jhavid Best has been hampered with a concusssion. He isn’t great, but he is capable of big plays, as he showed with his 88 yard scamper against the Bears on Monday Night Football. If he doesn’t go, that cripples the Lions already anemic run game. Kicker Jason Hanson has an injury to his plant leg. Julius Peppers is still struggling with the knee injury he suffered vs. Detroit, but he’ll be on the field Sunday afternoon.
The Revenge Factor: After the win Monday, Bears players quickly turned their attention to Detroit. In fact, it felt like the Bears lockeroom didn’t enjoy the win in Philly. There’s some legitimate anger towards the Lions. Lance Briggs told me this week that he doesn’t like the Lions and they haven’t handled their success well. There are questions about dirty play and hits after the whistle. The Bears have been looking forward to this rematch for a month now, but that’s all talk and I heard some of that before the game in Detroit. The Bears were embarrased at Ford Field and they didn’t like their “little brother” taking them out to the woodshed. They now get the chance for some payback. Detroit still has some things to prove and they need to show that the big moments aren’t too big for them. I question their legitimacy and a bunch of the Bears do, too. A win ties the two teams for second behind the Green Bay machine. Playoff implications? Yeah. So buckle up your chin straps, this one is going to be fun.
Make sure to follow me on twitter @lholmes670. We have big fun on gameday with instant analysis. Let me be your extra set of eyes during the game.