Detroit returns home after splitting two games on the road, losing in Arizona before rebounding with a historic win in Washington. Next up, NFC North rival Chicago makes the trip east across Interstate 94 in a game rife with early-season playoff implications.
NFC North Division Standings
|Team||Win||Loss||Points For||Points Against|
|Green Bay Packers||1||2||96||88|
The Lions have a great opportunity to seize control of first place in the NFC North. With Chicago coming to Ford Field, Detroit has a chance to pull even with the Bears at 3-1.
A Lions win would also give them an early tiebreaker over the Bears and push the team to 2-0 within the division.
Chicago will not be an easy opponent. It is coming off an annihilation of the woebegone Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. The Bears have also notched wins against Cincinnati and Minnesota, which was beaten by the Lions as well.
The Bears thrive on forcing turnovers. No team has more takeaways than Chicago's 11 through three games and it topped the NFL in 2012 with 44. The team might have a new coaching staff, but these Bears remain incredibly aggressive in attacking the football.
Here's how the teams stack up in statistical rankings so far:
|Rushing||Passing||Run Allowed||Passing Allowed|
The key figure there is Detroit's second-ranked passing attack against a Bears team which allows almost 300 yards per game through the air. Chicago is stout against the run, however, and the Lions rank near the bottom in rushing yards per game.
Most of these are carryovers from Week 3, with one notable and unfortunate addition.
Starting left defensive end Jason Jones was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered in the Washington game. He left the field on a cart and further tests revealed a torn patellar tendon in his left knee.
Head coach Jim Schwartz refused to delve into the depth chart, but expect Willie Young to take over the majority of Jones' snaps.
Israel Idonije could be in line for more as well, but Kyle Meinke of MLive.com reports that the team has brought back Andre Fluellen to take Jones' roster spot. Fourth-round rookie Devin Taylor could also see more action going forward.
Broyles and Delmas will perpetually remain on this list due to the chronic issues each has experienced, though both played in Week 3 and will play against Chicago as well.
It's worth noting that Delmas has not been limited at all with his knee this season.
#Lions math: In 3 games, S Louis Delmas, with his bad knee, has missed just 2 defensive snaps - was on field 100 percent at Washington.— Paula Pasche (@paulapasche) September 23, 2013
It appears as if the limited practice regimen is working for the starting free safety.
Fox remains out, and he will once again be replaced at right tackle by Corey Hilliard. Schwartz did not provide updates on Edwards, Carey or Fairley in his press conference. Edwards and Carey both missed Week 3, while Fairley started and played in 58 of Detroit's 77 defensive snaps. Expect that number to increase against the Bears.
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press wrote that Reggie Bush could have played in the Washington game. Barring a major setback, he should be the starting running back against Chicago.
As reported by ESPN.com, Chicago suffered a major injury on Sunday when it lost defensive tackle Henry Melton for the year with a torn ACL. Melton, who was playing under the franchise player tag this season, was Chicago's best interior pass-rusher.
For a good look at Melton's importance to the Chicago defense, check out Zach Kruse's excellent piece here at Bleacher Report.
Another key Bears defender is also banged up after departing the Sunday's game early. Star corner Charles Tillman, who Pro Football Focus (subscription required) suggests might play Calvin Johnson better than anyone else does, left the game with a groin injury.
Coach Marc Trestman indicated in his Monday press conference that Tillman should go against Detroit:
Trestman says #Bears will be cautious with Tillman this week. He says he's optimistic he can play Sunday in Detroit.— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) September 23, 2013
If Tillman is limited, the Lions gain a huge advantage.
What Needs to Improve
Put the needle on the broken record. Detroit committed eight more penalties, including three personal fouls on the defense.
Against a lesser opponent like the winless Redskins, the Lions were able to overcome the mindless errors. However, they cannot expect that to be the case against the undefeated Bears.
As touched upon above, the Lions must make a concerted effort to improve the running game. It will not be easy against Chicago, but getting a relatively healthy Reggie Bush back should help.
Getting more consistent run-blocking from the interior line trio of Rob Sims, Dominic Raiola and Larry Warford would certainly help too. They have been effective at times, but did not play well against Washington—particularly Raiola.
PFF examined the center's steep decline from Week 2 to Week 3.
The return units are in definite need of improvement as well. As I chronicled in my game impressions, the Lions have started just two drives coming off punts or kicks beyond their own 20-yard line in the last two weeks.
Elsewhere, there has been consternation about Matt Stafford's reluctance to throw the ball down the field, but that tide might be changing already.
As Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com noted, Schwartz was very proud of Stafford's yards per completion against Washington
Schwartz mentioned the 8.8 yards per completion as a really good stat to look at when evaluating Stafford's performance Sunday.— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) September 23, 2013
The Bears have a real vulnerability here, and losing Melton's pocket-crashing ability will not help. As teamrankings.com notes, Chicago ranks 31st in yards per completion allowed at 13 per catch.
Detroit has a great chance to keep Stafford's number trending positively, but the offensive line must give him time.