Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Sunday December 5, 2010 1:00 PM EST
Line: Chicago -6
At 8-3, the Chicago Bears are one or two wins away from getting to the playoffs. The Bears are an undefeated 4-0 since their bye week and will look to add another victory when they travel to Detroit to take on the 2-9 Lions.
The Lions are leaps and bounds ahead of where they were only a short while ago. While 2-9 is no accomplishment, the team is showing improvement in a number of areas and has only failed to cover at home one time this season.
Keys to the Game
The Bears defense is going to make life a nightmare for the Lions. The Bears have a shut down run defense and are quick to get to the quarterback. Led by Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, the Bears are among the best 4-3 defenses remaining in the league today. The Bears will likely destroy the Lions’ struggling run game, so it is imperative they get a pass rush on the Lions.
The Bears and betters are in luck, as Drew Stanton is under center. Shaun Hill and Matthew Stafford are out with injuries, so it will be up to Stanton, who has seven interceptions and two touchdowns in his career, to lead the Lions to victory.
Stanton has neither the moxie of Hill nor the raw talent of Stafford, which could land him in trouble. The Lions aren’t playing for anything, so Stanton shouldn’t feel pressure to succeed. Hopefully that provides him with some comfort when he is face down in the turf with Julius Peppers gnawing on his shoulder.
Julius Peppers is quite simply the best 4-3 pass rusher in the NFL. He has six sacks on the season with four of them coming in the last two games. He has an interception, three forced fumbles, 15 hurries, but most importantly, he commands the attention of the offensive line on every play.
The Lions aren’t going to be able to handle Peppers and are likely to over compensate to handle him. This leaves Israel Idonije in a one on one situation most of the time (a situation that has given him seven sacks this season after having only eight in six years coming into this season.
Calvin Johnson is one of the very best receivers in the league. Unfortunately, the revolving door at quarterback in Detroit has given the offense inconsistency. Johnson’s 11 touchdowns are more than Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson’s combined total.
Stanton needs to realize that even when the running game and pass protection fall apart, he still has a receiver he can feel comfortable throwing the ball to in pressure situations. The best thing Stanton can do is give Johnson a chance to make a play. Playing conservatively in this one isn’t going to result in a win.
Jay Cutler vs. Ndamukong Suh
When Jay Cutler gets time, he looks like the best quarterback in the NFL. When he fails to do so, problems occur. In Cutler’s last game against Detroit, he got time and threw only one interception. The offensive line can only do so much to protect Cutler. He holds onto the ball far too long at times and with the Lions defensive line playing at the level they are, Cutler will likely need to get rid of the ball sooner than later.
Ndamukong Suh could revolutionize the defensive tackle position. While his eight sacks are impressive, it his athleticism that has NFL teams coveting his ability. At 6'4" 307 pounds, Suh is relentless and among the quickest defensive tackles in the league.
He scares quarterbacks out of the pocket and has had a huge impact on the Lions this season. They will do well to build their defense around Suh in the off season, but for now, Suh has to take it upon himself to dismantle Cutler’s comfort zone. The Lions have a solid defensive line across the board, but if Suh can have a multiple sack day, it could be the difference in who covers.
I like where the Lions are headed, but they are still a couple years away from being a complete NFL team. They need to sure up some gaping holes in order to remain competitive against teams like the Chicago Bears. I have doubted the Bears all season long, mostly because I saw just how terrible they can be when Jay Cutler is allowed less than five seconds to get the ball out of his hand.
They only won by five at home the last time they played the Lions. While the Lions play well at home, Drew Stanton is going to force the Lions into bad situations early on. They aren’t going to be able to run the ball against the Chicago defense, which leads me to believe that Stanton is going to struggle.
Free NFL Pick: Chicago -6