Bears vs Lions: Top 5 Matchups to Watch

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Oct 10, 2011; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) looks for running room after making a catch and being defended by Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman (33) during the third quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears (3-0) head to the Motor City to face the division rival Lions (2-1) on Sunday for a key early-season matchup for early control of the North.  Here are the Top 5 matchups to watch that I expect will determine the outcome of the game.

5. Stephen Paea vs Dominic Raiola

It appears as though Nate Collins will get the first shot at replacing Henry Melton, who was finally put on IR, officially ending his season.  But the matchup I’m more interested in will be nose tackle Stephen Paea vs Lions center Dominic Raiola.  Paea has arguably been the Bears’ most consistent defensive lineman this season and the pressure is on him to raise his level of play to make up for Melton departure.

Matthew Stafford has been awfully comfortable in the pocket the first three weeks and there’s no better place to apply a little pressure than right up the middle.  Raiola looks like he’s nearing  the end of the line of a lengthy career, so it’s an opportunity for Paea to make some hay.

4. Matthew Stafford vs Chris Conte

Sep 15, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings (15) catches a pass over Chicago Bears free safety Chris Conte (47) during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Conte has been biting on the pump fake all season long and it was especially evident last week.  Ben Roethlisberger moved Conte around like he was a puppet on the string all night as Antonio Brown piled up the yardage.  Peanut Tillman will either miss the game or is at least limited and will need some help.  We’ve seen this type of bracket coverage work well against Brandon Marshall.  Can the Bears successfully do a little bracketing of their own?  If so, Conte needs to stay disciplined and can’t bit on pump fakes by Stafford.

The Lions come into Week 4 without Nate Burrleson, who busted his arm saving a falling front seat pizza and there aren’t too many other receivers that should be able to do some damage.  Ryan Broyles could be a sleeper on Sunday, but realistically, the Bears safeties need to stay assignment sound and can’t do any freelancing.