Preparations are in full swing for the Bears to take on the division rival Detroit Lions. Doesn’t it feel like forever since the Bears beat up on the Jacksonville Jaguars? It’s nice to head into the game with a 4-1 record atop the NFC North, but this is a “what have you done for me lately” business and there’s no resting on their laurels for the Bears. It’s time to get that first division win and do it on a national stage after getting embarrassed by the Lions on MNF last season. Here are the Top 5 matchups I’m looking forward to watching this week.
Devin Hester vs Lions Special Teams
Let’s not beat around the bush – the Lions’ special teams are horrible. They pretty much single-handedly awarded September’s Special Teams Player of the Month awards to Percy Harvin and Darius Reynaud, a pair of opponents which had return touchdowns against the Lions. The Lions gave up both kickoff and punt returns in consecutive weeks to the Vikings and Titans.
Hester has looked like he was set to break one over the last couple of weeks. In fact, his last return touchdown came against the Lions when they visited Soldier Field last season.
Jay Cutler vs Ndamukong Suh
This is sort of the Brett Favre vs Warren Sapp relationship, but with guys who are actually likable. Just kidding. This matchup really comes down to pressure. Suh has given Cutler his fair share of cheap shots in the few matchups between these teams over the last couple of seasons. Believe it or not, Jay Cutler has posted a very solid 5-1 record vs the Lions since joining the Beloved.
Suh took the league by storm in his rookie season, but lately it seems like he’s been doing more damage on behind the wheel than he has on the field. If the Bears can keep Suh out of Cutler’s face and give him a clean pocket, Jay should be able to exploit some weaknesses in the Lions secondary.
Cliff Avril vs Gabe Carimi
I usually reserve the Bears offensive line matchup for J’Marcus Webb and he’ll have his hands full with Kyle Vanden Bosch, but let’s give JWebb Nation a break. Carimi has excelled at run blocking but struggled in pass protection. The Chicago Bear Jew bears the pressure of being the last Jerry Angelo first round draft pick on the Bears’ roster.
Back to the earlier Cutler points, given some decent time, Jay could have a monster game. It’s time for big Gabe to take his game to the next level.
Brandon Marshall vs Louis Delmas
Louis Delmas’ return definitely helps the Lions beleaguered secondary, but he’ll have his hands full with Brandon Marshall. It’s clear the Lions don’t have the cornerbacks to check Marshall, so a lot of the coverage help will come from free safety Delmas. The game that Marshall struggled, the Packers had him bracketed took away Cutler’s favorite target.
Calvin Johnson vs Peanut Tillman
Megatron has been a mega-bust so far this season. Trust me, I know, I invested a first round fantasy pick on him, Madden Curse be damned. Johnson has put up a decent amount of yardage and catches, but he’s struggled to find the end zone with only one touchdown so far this season. Let’s not let Monday Night be his coming out party.
Tillman is riding high after consecutive weeks with pick-6′s. Peanut has fared well against Johnson in recent matchups, challenging the big receiver in some physical duals. I expect that to continue on Monday Night.
What do you think? Which matchups are you looking forward to? Which matchup is the key?