This Sunday, the Chicago Bears (5-3) will take on the Detroit Lions (5-3) in yet another pivotal NFC North matchup. The Bears took advantage of an Aaron Rodgers-less Packer squad last week and, in so doing, revitalized their playoff aspirations as well as the pulse of Bears nation. Admirable performances from Shea McClellin, Josh McCown, and Julius Peppers have Bears fans believing again since the team once again controls its own destiny in arguably the toughest division in the NFL. A win this Sunday will put the Bears in the driver’s seat, but the Lions present multiple matchup deficiencies, as evidenced in Week 4. Chicago’s roster has undergone numerous changes since the 40-32 loss at Detroit, so this week’s game plan will likely have different wrinkles. Let’s go inside the numbers, courtesy of the advanced analytics from Pro Football Focus.
The Lions boast one of the league’s top offenses with a (44.4) grade, according to PFF. Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Reggie Bush might be the best QB/WR/RB trio around, given their dynamic playmaking abilities. Stafford has made some unbelievable throws this year and he might be creeping into Top 5 QB conversations as a result. With a (91.02) PFF QB rating, he remains behind just Peyton Manning, Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, and Jay Cutler. Stafford’s ascension is due in large part to the great play of his offensive line. He’s been sacked a league-low 10 times, which coincides with Detroit’s top five pass block rating of (11.4).
The Lions’ sterling o-line features Dominic Raiola (9.2), Larry Warford (7.7), Riley Reiff (2.5), LaAdrian Waddle (2.1), and Rob Sims (-1.3). This unit appears devoted to keeping Stafford upright and less worried about creating huge holes in the run game as their below average (-9.4) run block grade indicates. Bush’s ability to find running lanes despite poor push upfront makes him a truly elite talent. Week 4′s matchup proved this true, as Bush needed merely an average hole to accelerate to the second level before making numerous Bears’ defenders whiff on tackle attempts. Mel Tucker and the Bears’ defensive staff have preached gap discipline all season, but assignment football remains of particular importance when facing an elusive back as talented as Bush.
The Lions have also found themselves a great redzone target in 6’6” tight end Joseph Fauria. The rookie from UCLA possesses elite size and catching radius, which forces opposing defenses to account for him as well as Megatron. Fauria still has a ways to go before he receives consistent playing time outside the 20 yard line, but he presents yet another matchup nightmare for the Monsters of the Midway.