The Chicago Bears will open up the 2010 season at home by hosting their division rival, the Detroit Lions. The Lions have been perpetual losers for the past few seasons but after having made some changes in the front office and on the coaching staff, this team is starting to look much better than it has and should have a better season than they have in the recent past.
The Bears come in having not won a single game during the preseason and many questions have been raised as to just how effective they will be on both sides of the ball. Hopefully, they will play much better in the regular season in their first test against the Lions.
When the Bears Have the Ball
We know that the Bears had problems protecting quarterback Jay Cutler in the preseason and hopes are high that they will be able to do that in this game. The problem is, they will face a rookie monster in Ndamukong Suh, and an experienced veteran in Kyle Vandenbosch.
Suh is just starting to learn but he’s a big body tackle that may require double teams in this game to keep him from disrupting things up front. Unfortunately, if you double team Suh you will leave someone else unblocked and able to make plays.
That someone else could be Vandenbosch.
In this, the Bears offensive line has to do their job protecting Cutler. Granted, this isn’t going to be as big of a rush defense as they will face later on in the season (such as when they face the Cowboys and Vikings). If they can’t do well against the Lions then they will have a lot of problems further on down the line.
The Lions linebackers are average and shouldn’t give the Bears too much in terms of the running game so look for the Bears to run the ball often in this game.
The Lions secondary isn’t the best either and have just one player, safety Louis Delmas, that really stands out. This will not only help them in the running game but if given some time to throw the ball, the Bears can do some damage and win this game.
When the Lions Have the Ball
In the both contests against the Lions last year, the game became a high scoring affair as each team seemed to watch their defenses go into hiding and let the offenses run the show. Things should be better this season for both teams on defense, but the Bears should have the better season of these two.
The Lions start second year quarterback Matthew Stafford, and while Stafford played well against the Bears in their first game last season, he is very susceptible to a strong pass pressure and will make mistakes. If the Bears can get enough pass pressure on him then they should be able to force him into making errant throws which can be intercepted or lead to the Lions getting off the field early.
This will be newly acquired defensive end Julius Peppers first regular season game as a Bear and hopefully he will be able to provide the kind of spark needed to make the pass rush work.
Peppers brings something to the Bear’s defensive line that they haven’t had in a while. What is it? It is a unique pass rush or pass rusher that has the ability to disrupt an offensive coordinator’s entire game plan.
Peppers can do that when he is on top of his game.
The starting linebackers will all be healthy and ready to go for this game so the Lions shouldn’t have a lot of success running the ball. They will use both Kevin Smith and Jahvid Best to run the ball. Best, a rookie, has great speed and some good moves but won’t be able to outdo the Bears linebacking corps. Expect the Lions to realize that the running game isn’t going to work for them early and throw the ball often in this game.
The Bear’s secondary seems to always be in some sort of trouble, whether it’s injury or ineffective play. But the Bears come into this game with a healthy secondary and some new faces in new places. Hopefully the switch of cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Zachary Bowman will make things better in the secondary this year.
Going back to last season’s first game against the Lions (as fans will remember) the Lions had their way with Bowman covering wide receiver Calvin Johnson and only after the Bears put Tillman on Johnson were they able to shut them down.
Hopefully both Tillman and Bowman will have success against Johnson. If they can shut him down then that leaves just Nate Burleson and tight end Brandon Pettigrew to contend with. But they should be far less “damaging” then Johnson will be.
The safety position will be manned by both Chris Harris and Danieal Manning.
Harris has been known to be a hard hitter in the past and can create turnovers. But he did that (for the most part) when he was with the Carolina Panthers. Hopefully he will be able to generate some turnovers with the Bears this season and continue playing aggressively. Danieal Manning gets the start at the other safety position and hopefully he’s finally learned how to play the position well.
On Special Teams
The Bears will be playing at Solider Field and kicker Robbie Gould knows Soldier Field like the back of his hand so there shouldn’t be any problems kicking. Punting has been a bit of a concern however as the Bears had three punts blocked in the preseason. Protection will be key because the Bears can’t afford to give the Lions any opportunities in this game.
The Lions punt and kick coverage teams are better this year but can still be run on so look for the Bears to try to break a return or two in this game using the weapons that they have both returning kicks and punts. They are very capable of breaking a long one in this game.
The Bears start the regular season with a lot more questions than they have answers but a lot of these questions can be answered with a win against the Lions.
First, we will be keeping an eye on their offensive line as we try to see if they can protect Cutler and give him enough time to throw the ball. If they can do that, the Bears will win this game. There is no question that with good protection, this offense can become one of the better passing offenses in the NFL.
The second thing that we will want to see happen in this game is whether or not the Bears defense can keep the Lion’s offense from converting third down opportunities. In the preseason, the Bears defense had a difficult time keeping opponents from converting third down. They have to get the opposing offense off the field on third downs during the regular season. They need to do it against the Lions this week.
Getting a “W” would really help the Bears boost their confidence on both sides of the ball and help get their minds in the right direction. They should be able to beat the Lions en route to a huge game against the Cowboys next weekend.
The Bears may not appear to be that good on paper (or on the field) but they are better than the Lions and will win this game. The things that we previously mentioned (the offensive line and third down defense) will have to improve in order for them to win this game. This could end up being a shootout like the two games last year but in the end, the Bears will come out on top.
Chicago 35, Detroit 28