Lions vs. Bears: Turnovers Are Key to Victory in NFC North Clash
Whether it's taking the ball away or giving it away, Monday night's game features two teams that are polar opposites when it comes to winning the turnover battle.
The Lions have a minus-1 turnover margin—forcing six and giving it away seven times. The Bears are plus-9—boasting 17 takeaways to make up for their eight giveaways.
Opposites in this case don't attract. Whichever team wins this battle will win the game.
Let's take a look at this battle from each side of the coin.
Lions Offense vs. Bears Defense
Matthew Stafford has nearly 1,500 passing yards this season, but he also has five interceptions. For an offense that relies heavily on the pass, taking care of the ball is extremely important.
It's even more important when you're facing a defense that thrives on takeaways. The Bears love to strip the ball, and their Cover 2 defense often confuses quarterbacks and sets up easy interceptions.
Chicago features four players with at least two interceptions, including linebacker Lance Briggs. On top of that, Briggs and Charles Tillman each have two defensive touchdowns.
To avoid giving the ball away, Detroit must keep the Bears honest. Allowing them to sit in deep zones will take away the Lions' biggest strength. The only way to fix that is by running the ball consistently, forcing Chicago's secondary to play toward the line of scrimmage.
Even if Stafford plays well, the Bears could force a few mistakes; it's the nature of their defense. Thus, Mikel Leshoure and Kevin Smith become Detroit's two most important players on offense.
Protecting Stafford will also be important. The Lions' front line has only allowed nine sacks all year, but they're facing a Bears defense that has recorded 18. If Stafford is under duress, the chance of a turnover goes up exponentially.
Possessing the ball is huge here. Not only does it take away one of Chicago's biggest strengths, but it keeps Detroit's mediocre defense off the field.
Bears Offense vs. Lions Defense
The Bears must worry about Cutler's ball security every single time he takes the field, but other facets of the Chicago offense is cause for concern. The line struggles to protect Cutler (14 sacks allowed), and he gets more erratic the more pressure he faces.
With 12 sacks on the season, getting to the quarterback hasn't been Detroit's strongest suit. That number looks even worse when you consider that the team has recorded just two interceptions.
Needless to say, that's not the recipe to beat Cutler. He has his faults as a quarterback, but his arm allows him to pick apart a defense if he's given time to do so. Without pressure, the chances of him completing a pass go through the roof.
On top of that, Chicago has added more weapons this year to its offense. The main one is receiver Brandon Marshall, who has 35 catches for 496 yards and three touchdowns this year. His presence alone seems to make Cutler more comfortable.
The Bears seem to get better every week. Beating them usually comes down to one thing—forcing Cutler to make his normal array of errors.
Detroit is facing a tough situation here. If Cutler avoids being Cutler, the Bears offense can become two-dimensional and move the ball and control the clock. That allows the Bears defense to maintain control of the game.
The Lions picked up a big win over the Philadelphia Eagles last week, but they won't be able to make it two in a row. They don't have the ingredients necessary to exploit Chicago's biggest weakness, which will force them to look elsewhere against a very tough opponent.
Add in Soldier Field, and you have yourself a Bears win.
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