Monday, October 10, 2011

MONDAY NIGHT PREVIEW

CHICAGO @ DETROIT

The Bears have lost the last six meetings between these two teams, with their last victory coming back in 2007. Back then, Jay Cutler wasn’t even a thought in Chicago as they were holding court with Brian Griese, while the Detroit faithful were enduring the final year of Matt Millen era. Needless to say, things have changed. The Lions are undefeated and looking to match the Packers as the only other 5-0 team in the league. Both teams have a mediocre running game, which explains their tendency to pass 62 percent of the time. However, they have two key differences.

The first comes down to the quarterback play and Detroit's inhuman receiver, Calvin Johnson. Chicago has no weapon that can match Megatron, who has eight touchdowns in just four weeks. Matthew Stafford is a calm, composed presence on the field, while Jay Cutler tends to be a bit of a gunslinger that is turnover prone. On defense, both teams play a base 4-3, but statistics wise, they're headed in opposite directions. Detroit has an aggressive young line led by Ndamukong Suh and will be joined tonight for the first time by first round pick Nick Fairley. For Chicago, their front seven consists of only two players under age 30: DE Henry Melton and LB Nick Roach. Needless to say, the defense is beginning to emulate last year's tendencies, but with less success. The run defense came into this week ranked 23rd, falling five spots, while their pass defense fell to 29th from 26th. Detroit's young secondary, considered a weakness at the season's start, has played aggressive football, and has helped create a fourth-best seven interceptions. They are plus-8 so far this year.

Cutler has and will continue to rely on Matt Forte, mostly for short receptions. Forte raised his yards per carry average to 5.4, but he's a one cut runner with heavy feet. That was primarily due to a 200-yard game against an abysmal Carolina defense, and while his rushing numbers have been better this year, even after that game Chicago's rushing offense was still ranked 20th. No doubt, Forte is the best PPR back in the league, but there is no one behind him, as he has more than double receptions of Cutler's next favorite target, Johnny Knox. With all the sack Cutler has taken, neither TE Kellen Davis nor Matt Spaeth has figured into the offensive plans.

Johnson will face a team that his yielded 100-yard receiving games to both Steve Smith and Greg Jennings, and has given up a passing TD to tight ends the last two weeks. I expect that Brandon Pettigrew to get his fair share of targets, Johnson to feast, and the Jay Cutler to be under pressure most of the night.


LIONS 31, BEARS 17