The Detroit Lions (4-0) seek their best start to the season since 1956, as they host the Chicago Bears (2-2) tonight for the first game in Detroit on a Monday Night Football stage in a decade. The Lions remain as one of only two unbeaten teams in the league, benefitting from two dramatic comebacks in back-to-back weeks that has served to boost the confidence of both their team and their extremely loyal but oft-disappointed fans. Tonight, the Lions will seek redemption at home in a game against the last team that handed them a loss back on December 5th, 2010. With 9 straight wins under their belt since that loss (which interestingly enough didn’t feature Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, out due to injury), the 10th win in a row would be that much sweeter for the Lions, and for the city of Detroit, which has recently begun a renaissance in sports over the past year. While it’s been the passing game led by Stafford and star wide receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson that has been the star of the show in Detroit, it’s been their running game, or better lack thereof, that still stands out as the biggest question mark coming into this match-up. Ranked 31st in the league at just 74.5 yards per game, Detroit’s ground attack needs to be more consistent to keep the Lions’ possession time up, and limit the number of times the team has to rely on last-minute passing drives to save them in the 4th quarter.
The Chicago Bears on the other hand enter this game yet to find their identity as a football team, struggling on both offense and defense to a 2-2 start, but looking even worse than that record suggests. The Bears are ranked in the bottom third of the league in just about every category either for offense or defense, and what has truly been a shock is how far the defense has fallen from their usual highly-regarded stature amongst the league’s best. Ranked 30th in passing defense and 25th against the rush, this is no longer your starting fantasy football squad. Add in the fact that Chicago is giving up more points than they are scoring on average (24.5 allowed, 23.5 generated), and coming into this match-up against the 6th-ranked passing offense of the Detroit Lions should certainly be cause for concern for the Bears secondary considering they just gave up 543 total yards to Carolina, 347 of those to QB Cam Newton. Though Chicago rests on a 6-game win streak against Detroit heading into this match-up, it’s really been the lack of offensive balance that has hurt them this season, sticking mostly with the passing game (131 attempts vs. 82 rushes), and in order to prevail at an energized Ford Field tonight, they’ll need to see the balance of offense shift to the ground game once more, like last week where RB Matt Forte went bonkers for 205 yards on 20 carries, while QB Jay Cutler aired the ball out only 17 times.
Betting Lines for Chicago vs. Detroit at TopBet.com Sportsbook
TopBet.com features tonight’s Monday Night Football match-up as the top sports betting option on Monday, with the home team Detroit Lions getting -250 odds to win while Chicago comes in at a +210 underdog in today’s match-up. The point spread on the game is at 6 in favor of the Lions, with -110 odds going for either a wager on the Lions to cover, or the Bears to stay within that points margin. The over/under stands at 47 points, almost exactly what the Bears are averaging in scoring and allowing as a defense heading into this game.
Our Pick to Win:
Unless the Chicago Bears find some improvement on defense in tonight’s match-up, it’s going to be a long day for Jay Cutler trying to play catch-up in the passing game. Chicago needs to keep the running and passing games balanced to keep their own possession time up, while simultaneously limiting the amount of damage Matthew Stafford can do to their suspect secondary when on the field. While this seems like its Detroit’s game to win or lose at home tonight, all things could change in a heartbeat if Chicago can catch just one big play from Matt Forte or Devin Hester. Though I think Detroit’s luck late in games may have been cashed in for a while, they won’t need it against Chicago, as the Lions roll with a lead from the first half and win 35-24.
Players to Watch, Detroit:
Calvin Johnson, WR – Megatron is quite simply a beast that has no match on opposing defenses. At 6’5″, he’s basically the size of a tight end with hands like Jerry Rice, with an ability to out jump any defender for balls thrown up for grabs. Having already scored 8 TDs through 4 games, look for this guy to get to first toss to the corner of the end zone for Detroit tonight.
Javid Best, RB – Here’s something interesting; both Best and Chicago back Matt Forte have 60 carries on the season. While one back is averaging 5.4 yards/carry (Forte), the other is averaging a meager 3.2 yards on a team that is only averaging 3 yards a carry in total. With the 25th-ranked rushing defense in town allowing 124 yards/game on a ground, it’s up to the former California running back to make better use of his touches and help balance out the Detroit offense.
Players to Watch, Chicago:
Matt Forte, RB – He was three-quarters of Chicago’s offense last week, accounting for 228 of 317 total yards, and while the Bears didn’t look their best, they still pulled out a gritty win at home. Detroit’s run defense isn’t impenetrable (giving up 113 yards/game), so Forte will be key for the Bears to get going early if they want to pick up another gutsy win tonight.
Jay Cutler, QB – Cutler’s rise to mediocrity seems to know no bounds. He’s averaging 211.5 yards per game with just 7.3 yards/pass, has a 5:4 TD-to-INT ratio, and a sad 77.8 passer rating with 54.2 percent of throws completed. Ranking in the mid-20′s overall against the league’s quarterbacks in just about every category, though Cutler has struggled with a terrible O-line, he simply needs to be better at mixing up the passing attack, getting Matt Forte more involved out in the flats, and not trying to rely on deep balls to make up for a game’s worth of incomplete passes.