Chicago Bears Head Coach Marc Trestman tried to downplay the importance of beating divisional foe Detroit Lions this week, saying that each game is just as important as the next.
However, wins against division opponents are bigger than most. It can mean the difference between making the playoffs and staying at home as the division record is the first tie breaker. Handing losses to divisional opponents also keeps them down in the overall standings. So I'll argue wins against those in your division are more important than most.
And if the Bears want to beat the LionsSunday afternoon in their building to get one of those wins, the defense is going to have play better than it did against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week.
Sure the Bears defense forced five turnovers, and it helped them bury the Steelers in the only statistic that really matters - the final score. However, the defense also gave up more than 450 yards in offense against Ben Roethlisberger and ... who?
Bears cornerback Charles Tillman has played Lions monster receiver Calvin Johnson very well over the past few seasons. During the last two, Tillman has done more than hold his own, keeping Johnson to less than 80 yards receiving per game.
However, Tillman left last week's game with a sore groin, and did not practice this week until a light one on Friday. We've seen Charles Tillman start a lot of games lately, but not finish them. I expect the same this week.
Zack Bowman will get the call against Johnson when Tillman sits, even though Tim Jennings has been playing well these last two seasons for the Bears. Unfortunately Jennings stands five feet, eight inches tall, which gives Megatron too much of a height advantage.
Fortunately for the Bears, the Lions lost their number two receiver, Nate Burleson, to a bizarre pizza accident - really - so with the return of Reggie Bush this week, the Bears need to be ready to stop the run. They held Adrian Peterson to 100 yards rushing two weeks ago, and the D will need a similar effort this week to make the Lions one-dimentional while short-handed.
Nose tackle Stephen Paea will have to step up his game this week after defensive tackle Henry Melton shredded his knee last week. Paea has been the Bears' most consistent player on the line so far this season, and he'll have to jump another notch up starting this week. The linebacking crew has been playing very well, so if the line can play within themselves and keep gaps filled, it will help hold the Lions' running game.
Quarterback Jay Cutler is 7-1 against the Lions since joining the Bears, and in his loss he posted a 99.8 passer-efficiency rating, so he has had the Lions' number.
The offensive line will have its hands full keeping Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley away from Cutler. But, it has performed well so far, facing three tough defenses and allowing just three sacks. The system Trestman has installed, which calls on a lot of quick passes, helps keep Cutler on his feet and that should continue this week.
This will be a tough road game for the Bears, but I predict the Lions will beat themselves with dumb penalties and head coach Jim Schwartz will blow his top and be violently outcoached during a 31-17 win for the Bears.
by Casey Moffitt