The Bears and Lions are set to restore their rivalry at Soldier Field on Monday night. It’s been 15 days since the Bears last played and almost a full month since they graced the lakefront. It ought to be rocking under the lights.
The Lions bring the #2 offense in yards per game to face the Bears’ top scoring defense. The Lions may have saved their season last week when they rallied to beat the Eagles in overtime. Meanwhile, the Bears come off a bye week sitting alone atop the NFC Nroth. To help us get ready for this showdown, we reached out to Zac Snyder, editor of Side Lion Report, to get his take on the game. Here are my questions and Zac’s answers:
1. A lot of buzz around Chicago and the NFL is how the Lions are an undisciplined team. We saw it through the offseason and many believe it’s carried over to the field so far in 2012. Are the Lions undisciplined on the field? Is that about coaching or personnel?
Are there times you wonder what they’re thinking? Yeah, that still happens. The unanswered question is whether or not the undisciplined moments are a systemic issue or just growing pains. I’m not sure that can be answered right now. Either the Lions clean it up and take the next step or they don’t and continue to be held back by penalties on the field and a general lack of discipline. The question about who is responsible is interesting. There is certainly some blame due to players whether it be for youthful exuberance or a lack of focus but the coaching staff deserves some blame as well. The Lions are a rising team led by a first time head coach so it is fair to say this is a group learning project.
2. Fantasy owners need to know – what the heck is going on with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson? Can they get it going against the Bears defense that is ranked #1 in points allowed?
The frustrating thing about Stafford and Johnson this year is that it seems to take them three quarters before they get going. Look at their total numbers so far or at the end of each game and there doesn’t seem to be much cause for concern. However, watching them over the course of four full quarters paints a different picture. Their early struggles in each game is a big topic in Detroit that spreads well beyond Stafford and Johnson. Some of it is play calling, some of it based on tempo. The biggest concern with Stafford is his drop off in touchdown passes and that has affected CJ too. Calvin is actually averaging a handful more yards per game this year than he did last season. The Lions just aren’t doing a good job in scoring touchdowns in general and I’m not sure facing the Bears defense bodes well for breaking out of that funk.
3. The Bears and Lions get to see each other twice a season, so there’s a lot of familiarity between the teams. Since they met last, the Bears have added wide receiver Brandon Marshall. How does the addition of Marshall change the Lions’ defensive approach? Do they have an answer in their secondary to shut him down?
Forget Marshall, the Lions might have trouble covering anyone in this game due to the health of their corners. Chris Houston is healthy but it is possible that Jonte Green gets the start opposite him. Green (sixth round) was the last of three corners drafted by the Lions last April. They re-signed Alphonso Smith this week after cutting him in training camp and there is a good chance he sees significant playing time. Jacob Lacy is likely out after suffering a concussion last week and Bill Bentley’s availability is up in the air. The Lions would be wise to give Marshall the Megatron treatment and keep a safety shaded his way all day. Keep the pressure on him and he’s bound to drop a few passes, right?
4. The Lions special teams unit is off to a rough start this season. Devin Hester’s last return touchdown came against the Lions at Soldier Field last season. See where I’m going with this? Do the Lions even give Hester a chance on Monday night?
I smell what you’re cooking. I certainly wouldn’t give him a chance at a return and the Lions would be smart to kick it where he can’t get it. His return in last year’s game in Chicago was the result of a poorly placed punt. It just so happened that was Robert Malone’s only game as the Lions punter. Funny how that works out sometimes.
5. What’s your prediction for the game? Please predict a final score.
On the surface this strikes me as a perfect opportunity to rise up and surprise the Bears but their injuries at corner worry me. It will help if they can pressure Jay Cutler like they got after Michael Vick last week but there might just be too many big play opportunities available. I fear things could get ugly like last year if the Bears jump out to an early lead, a distinct possibility considering the Lions haven’t had a halftime lead all year. Still, the Lions are coming off a big come from behind win on the road last week and could make it interesting. Final score: Bears 27, Lions 23
Be sure to head over to Side Lion Report to check out my answers to Zac’s questions. For a Lions fan, he’s good people, so give him a chance.