The Chicago Bears take on the Detroit Lions in a pivotal NFC North matchup at Ford Field Sunday at noon. The Bears sit atop the division at 3-0, and they are looking to continue their early-season success.
The biggest contribution to the Bears’ success has been, as always, the defense and their ball-hawking ability. So far in 2013, they have forced six fumbles and intercepted five passes while scoring three defensive touchdowns the past two games. Against the Lions, they have forced 27 turnovers and have won nine of 10 games in the series. I think the defenses of both teams will be the x-factor in this game. Cornerback Charles Tillman, who is listed as questionable due to knee and groin injuries he suffered late last week, will provide the Bears with a distinct edge if he plays.
In the teams’ last three meetings, Tillman has held Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson to 15 catches with no touchdowns and an average of 62.3 yards. Johnson is one of the best wide receivers in the game, so having Tillman shut him down like that is huge for a Bears’ victory. On the other side, the defensive line for the Lions features one of the dirtiest players in the NFL. Defensive end Ndamukong Suh has built the reputation of a nasty player due to his multiple fines for intentionally going after players. He will be a big test for the young offensive line, as will defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
Lions’ wide receiver Nate Burleson suffered a broken arm in a car crash last Tuesday, so he will be out for Sunday’s game. This is good for the Bears, as more defensive attention will be paid to Johnson. Especially if Tillman is out, extra attention to Megatron is key. The Lions have other options as well in receiver Ryan Broyles and running back Reggie Bush.
Speaking of the tailback, Bush is set to return from a knee injury that held him out of last week’s game. In this first two games, he has 260 yards with a touchdown. He could pose a threat to the Bears, as you never know what he will bring to an already stacked offense. For the Bears, running back Matt Forte has rushed for 219 yards and a touchdown on 46 carries in his last two games at Ford Field. Forte will need to jump-start this offense and get it going early, because they can not afford to fall behind against this Lions offense.
At the head of that offense if Matthew Stafford. Stafford has thrown for 1,020 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. He is a gun-slinger, and it will be interesting to see how he reacts to the Bears’ extra coverage on Johnson, his go-to receiver. Jay Cutler has been tabbed as “Mr. 4th quarter” by receiver Brandon Marshall, and he has lived up to that so far this year. In another astounding revelation, Cutler has only been sacked three times this season. That is a credit to the offensive line, and I will be watching to see if they continue to keep Cutler on his feet.
The quarterback is 3-1 when playing the Lions, with an impressive 108.8 quarterback rating and seven touchdowns. An all-around effort will be needed for a Bears victory, but the onus will be on the defense and containing the most prolific receiver in the game.
Last year, the teams’ two meetings were decided by eight points. In a game in which the Lions could grab a share of the division lead with a win, expect more of the same Sunday.