Detroit will square off with Chicago in a critical NFC North matchup.
NFC North Division Standings
|Team||Win||Loss||Points For||Points Against|
|Green Bay Packers||5||3||232||185|
Green Bay and Chicago met in the Monday night game. The Bears prevailed, 27-20, at Lambeau Field to forge a three-way tie atop the division.
The bigger development is the left (non-throwing) shoulder injury to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He left the game early in the first quarter and was quickly ruled out.
The severity of Rodgers' injury has yet to be officially determined, but if he is out for even a week, it's a significant loss. Green Bay has an incredible amount of injuries, yet none would be bigger than Rodgers. The dropoff from Rodgers to Seneca Wallace defies a relevant metaphor.
Minnesota lost, 27-24, at Dallas when Tony Romo engineered an impressive game-winning drive. The Vikings played, arguably, their best game of the season and still came up short.
Detroit travels to Chicago this Sunday for a critical rematch with the Bears. The Lions prevailed, 40-32, at Ford Field in Week 4.
Early reports, including one from Will Brinson of CBS Sports, indicate that Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will start for Chicago. He was injured in a Week 7 loss to Washington and has not played since leaving that game with a groin injury.
Here is how the Lions and Bears match up. Note that these rankings are from prior to Chicago's game on Monday.
|Rushing||Passing||Run Allowed||Passing Allowed|
Detroit made significant moves in two categories. They rose from fifth to second in passing yards, thanks to the 488-yard outpouring versus Dallas. The run defense also ticked up from 21st to 14th.
Chicago has suffered several defensive injuries which have impacted their ratings. Star linebacker Lance Briggs and defensive tackle Henry Melton, both among the very best at their respective positions, have been out for multiple weeks.
The good news is that there are no new injuries to report. The Lions behaved themselves on the week off.
The week off should help many of the walking wounded get back into better health. Foremost in that group are Reiff, Mathis and Reggie Bush, all of whom have been playing through minor issues.
Owens is the biggest question mark. He was activated last week from the injured reserve with designation to return when Ryan Broyles was placed on injured reserve with his torn Achilles.
The Lions will not release any injury updates until after Wednesday's practice, when the league requires them to do so.
What Needs to Improve
The bye week is all about self-scouting, the process of internal evaluation as to what the team can do better. Aside from last week's suggestions, here are a couple more things I'd like to see out of the Lions.
The first issue is closing out the first half. This has been a sore point all season for Detroit.
According to the splits at Team Rankings, the Lions rank 25th in second-quarter scoring defense. That’s their worst ranking in any quarter.
What's interesting is that the second quarter is also the quarter in which the Lions do their best at forcing turnovers. Five of its 10 interceptions and three of its six forced fumbles have come in the second quarter, per ESPN's statistical splits.
Despite the takeaways, the defense is still surrendering too many points in the second quarter.
One reason could be the Lions frequently substitute in the reserves on the defensive line in that quarter. Instead of taking out both tackles at the same time, it might be worth keeping either Ndamukong Suh or Nick Fairley in the game.
The Lions do not get enough effective play from the reserve defensive tackles to sacrifice a drive in the name of resting Suh and Fairley. It's worth trying to stagger their rest on separate drives instead of yanking them both at the same time.
Secondly, the Lions need to avoid a repeat of recent history. It won't be easy, because there is deja vu all over the place.
In the 2011 season, the Lions had a bye in Week 9 before traveling to Chicago to face the Bears. Those Lions were 6-2 to this year's 5-3, but that team was also coming off a huge victory. Detroit pounded Denver, 45-10, in Week 8 that year, arguably the high point of the Jim Schwartz era.
Even more coincidentally, those Bears were hosting the game after playing a Monday night game on the road. That year, they beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 30-24, to improve to 5-3. The week prior to that Monday night game, just as this season, was a bye week for the Bears.
The Lions had a chance to dramatically augment their playoff chances with a win, just like they do this time around.
It did not go well in 2011. Chicago forced six Detroit turnovers in a 37-13 shellacking. Both safety Major Wright and corner Charles Tillman returned interceptions for touchdowns, while Devin Hester returned a punt 82 yards for another score.
For the morbidly curious, here is the box score from the game, courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Coming off a game where the Lions had four turnovers, protecting the football is paramount. The Bears have some major injury issues on defense, but they still attack the football quite adeptly.
The Lions have a great chance to seize control of the NFC North. A win in Chicago would put Detroit at 3-1 within the division, including a sweep of the Bears. With all of Green Bay's injury issues, a win would make the Lions favorites to run away with the division title.
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