I strolled over to the Lions blog to see some of the updates on the team and concerns going into the week 1 contest in Chicago this weekend.
Let me tell you this...
... The "new season" optimism is alive and flowing! Haha!
In the Lion's Den defense, there are some quality writers over there who report what is going on and has a good ear to the pulse of the team, but some of the posts are a bit much for even the most non-biased NFL fan to stomach.
Take a look at THIS thread and my comments after the jump...It reads...
First I am going to look at the teams on a position by position basis. For the most part I am just dumping out the knowledge, analysis, and opinions that are in my head here, and when necessary I will do a little research.
Quarterback: Cutler is more experienced and has more wins in the NFL than Stafford. He also has a better passer rating over his career and last season. Cutler did show a clear drop off in performance when he came to the Bears from Denver. In preseason the entire Chicago offense has looked ugly and Cutler admits that it is "a work in progress". Many players are struggling with the new offense and all things are not clicking in the passing game for Cutler. In fact he warned the Chicago media to expect a lot of interceptions this year. Conversely Stafford appears to be poised to take step at quarterback, a step closer to being "the man", and possibly a big step. Stafford has shown a lot of promise in the preseason and has the Detroit faithful very excited. Most of this excitement comes from camps, practices, and preseason games however and nothing has been proven on the field when it counts.
I see a tale of two quarterbacks here, one trending down, another trending up. Player versus player, pound for pound, I can honestly say this is the "prove it" game for Stafford. Indications are that we might have a big edge here and even though Cutler has the edge in experience, wins, and overall success in the league I think all of that will be more than canceled out by the struggles and lack of confidence he has in the Bears new offense. Edge Lions.
(Although the city of Detroit is expecting BIG things out of their first round draft QB, Bears fans probably are expecting MORE from Jay Cutler because of what was sacrificed to get him to Chicago. Two first round draft picks and a QB who had more success than Cutler has had to this point [Orton]. Most analysts expect the Lions to get better, but no one expects Stafford to take this team to the playoffs in 2010. Jay Cutler has a lot more to prove because of all the things he listed. Cutler is in a far better quarterback because it's not based upon "what he might do", but what he can do. As he suggested, Cutler has already proven that he can play the game of football. Stafford has had one-half of a season and nothing overly impressive to place on that resume. Advantage? CUTLER)
Runningback: Well the good news is that we have Jahvid Best. The bad news is that we have no legitimate, proven threat behind him. Questions about Smiths health, and Browns ability to not only run the correct plays but also be able to run inside the tackles and on the goal line may be answered in this game. But they are still questions. Jerome Felton is completely unproven as a runner and pass protector and he has a lot to prove yet too. So that brings us to Maurice Morris as the only non mystery running behind Best. Though Morris is solid he is not the type of back that anyone is going to get excited about when he checks into the game.
The biggest surprise this year in Chicago just might be their running game. Early indicators are that Matt Forte has gotten over his sophomore slump. Just to make sure that he did the Bears went out and added Chester Taylor in free agency. Taylor is going to be breathing down his back all year and can easily take over the starting duties if Forte fails to perform. Contrary to what many in Detroit think about Martz the guy proved that he can have a successful run game when he was with the Rams.
All things considered I have to call this one a wash. Best is the real deal but unless Felton or Brown takes a serious step in this game our complimentary backs leave a lot to be desired. Had Forte not had a sophomore slump this would be a hands down advantage for the Bears. However he has as much to prove to the Bears this game as Stafford does the Lions. Chester Taylor may be the feature back in Chicago before years end, good thing for them he is capable of handling it. Edge None.
(Edge-- None? How can that be? You feature two backs who have PROVEN success in their tenure and you match them against two backs that have a resume of 0-NFL regular season yds and say there is no advantage is sipping the Lions kool-aid really hard. Matt Forte had a dismal 2009 campaign, but that's not saying much about a guy who played injured an entire season behind a offensive line that ESPN ranked as one of the 5 worst in the NFL in 2009. Chester Taylor and Matt Forte are a clear advantage over Jahvid Best and whoever the Lions trot out there and that's just being real. Far better talents!
Tight End: Pettigrew, Scheffler, and Heller make the Lions one of the best groups in the NFL. The good news for the Bears is that Greg Olsen can easily be mentioned in the same company. The bad news for them is that no one else on their roster can be. The Lions have a clear edge here but I don't know how much of a disadvantage for the Bears that really is since the Martz offense does not rely on anything but blocking from the tight ends. Edge Lions.
(I agree here...)
Wide Receiver: The Lions have a potent one, two punch here with Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson but have no one worth mentioning or game planning for behind those two. The Bears have a very under rated receiving core Johnny Knox, Devin Aromashodu, Devin Hester, and Earl Bennett give the Bears a group that can be very lethal to a slow secondary and also can make gains after the catch when thrown to underneath. It is a good thing for the Bears that the Martz offense does not require physical mismatches and relies more on timing. It is a bad thing for the Bears that the Lions are building a fast and physical secondary capable of interrupting that timing. I have to give the edge to the Lions here only because of the freakish ability of Calvin Johnson. He has the ability to take over and dominate a game, to change the outcome all by himself, that no other name on either squad can. Edge Lions.
(I would agree here as well, but only because Calvin Johnson is a monster of a WR. The idea that the Lions are "building a fast and physical secondary" is speculative and wishful-thinking on the part of any NFL fan. The Bears are underrated as he suggests and there won't be much the secondary can do to stop Knox or Hester in space.)
Fullback: Neither team has the type of offense or personnel to make this position any kind of real factor in the game in my opinion. Sure both have players that can leak out into the red zone and get a touchdown but that has more to do with coaching and scheme match up than any exceptional talent either team can boast. Edge None.
Offensive Line: The off season addition of Rob Sims and healthy recovery of Stephen Peterman gives the Lions an overwhelming edge here. For the first time in a long time the Lions actually have the best offensive line in the NFC North with four legitimate contenders for the pro bowl our only question marks going into this game are Gosder Cherilus and staying healthy. Chicago on the other hand has question marks all over their line with their only standout player being Olin Kreutz. The Bears are going to have serious concerns keeping their quarterback healthy this game and moving forward into the season. Edge Lions.
(The Lions OL is not the best in NFC North-- The Packers are. 2nd best? I would agree. The additions that are listed DO make a huge difference. I would agree that the Bears OL vs The Lions OL the Lions have less concerns and more skill. How that matches up with the opposing DLs will be a different story. But for the sake of this post I will agree that they do have a better OL.)
Defensive Line: Both teams feature some serious talent on this side of the ball. The Lions have Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ndamukong Suh, Cory Williams, and Cliff Avri. Our line has some serious potential and a nice mix of veterans with youth, now if we could just gel and stop taking stupid penalties, especially in 3rd and long situations we should be able to contend with anyone in the league here. Chicago features proven tackles Anthony Adams and Tommy Harris along with Julius Peppers on the outside, add in promising young Cory Wootton to that mix and our offensive line is going to have their hands full all day long. While at first glance you might consider all of these guys a wash there are two things that give the Lions an edge here. First of all the depth coming off the bench is second to none for the Lions. Secondly, though the Bears have a fearsome pass rush their line is extremely vulnerable when run at, especially when run directly at. Edge Lions.
(Seriously? Julius Peppers was the priority of EVERY NFL team this offseason, right? Wasn't Vanden Bosch in that list as well? N. Suh looks good and will be a problem for OLs, but Tommie Harris looks to be over his "Cedric Benson" sabbatical and has a proven track record in the NFL. That should count for something, right? I think if there was a category to give out one of the "NONE" advantage ratings-- this is it. There is a lot of talent on both of these units and I don''t think there is a clear advantage anywhere.)
Line Backers: The Lions have Julian Peterson as a stalwart outside backer, and some promise in DeAndre Levy, if he can stay healthy. However there is a big question mark this year in Zack Follett and though veteran Landen Johnson will be solid if called upon there is nothing but special teams players and question marks behind him. The Bears on the other hand have Brian Urlacher and Hunter Hillenmayer in the middle with Lance Briggs, Nick Roach, and Piso Tinoisamoa on the outside. There are absolutely no question marks for the Bears here, not on starters or backups. The Bears have 3 pro bowl quality starters and 2 starter caliber back ups. Edge Bears.
(IF he would have said "NONE" here-- I would have went and found him.)
Secondary: The Lions have Louis Delmas and a lot of hope and prayers in the secondary. With a whole stable of fast, young, physical players the Lions have an unknown quantity in the secondary. Chris Houston and Jonathan Wade are looking to break out and prove that they are legit starters in this league. Recent trade acquisition Alphonso Smith is another young talent that has been discarded by the team that drafted him. Randy Philips is someone who never got drafted at all and Amari Spievey has been moved from corner to safety. These guys should have a chip on their shoulder and something to prove not only to the Lions but also themselves, and in most cases their former teams too.
Bears safeties Daniel Manning and Chris Harris compliment rookie Major Wright. Charles Tillman and Zack Bowman are the bears corners and while Bowman is up and coming, Tillman is nothing to write home about. The Bears have a lot of developmental projects in the secondary they are hoping take a step forward this year. One notable difference is that the Bears have actually drafted quite a few of these guys and this will definitely be a bubble year for a few of them. This is easily the Bears 2nd biggest weakness behind the offensive line. Edge None.
(I agree... these units stink! I don't know which one will be worse at seasons end, but both will be completely revamped except for Delmas and Wright in two years.)
Special Teams: The Lions have Jason Hanson, Nick Harris, and Stefan Logan as the impact guys on special teams. While Hanson and Harris might not be rising stars in the league there is something to be said for the consistency of a kicking unit that has been together for 7 years. Significant attention has been paid to upgrading the coverage units as well for the Lions. With all of the additions including a highly regarded special teams coordinator in Danny Crossman I expect big things from the Lions this year.
The Bears have Robbie Gould, Brad Maynard, Johnny Knox and Danieal Manning as their impact players on special teams. I also expect D.J. Moore to take over punt returns for Devin Hester since he has looked good in the preseason and Hester was nothing special in returns last year. What may surprise a lot of you is the fact that Manning and Knox combined to be the 3rd best kick return tandem in the NFL last year. Knox was the real standout averaging 29 yards per return over 32 kicks and taking one 102 yards for a touchdown.
Looking at this you can understand why we are upgrading up our coverage units. We have closed the gap but probably not enough to surpass Chicago's excellent special teams play. Edge Bears.
(Won't argue here either...)
Lets Recap that shall we.
LionsBears, RB: NoneBears, TE: Lions, FB: None, OL: Lions
LionsBears, LB: Bears, DB: None
Special Teams: Bears
When I take all of that in and let is soak I see a key to the game. Who can run the ball. Ultimately I think that several things line up for the Lions to win this game. Though the Bears have an excellent linebacker core they will get caught between covering our tight ends and trying to stop Jahvid Best. To make that even more important is the fact that the best way to nullify both Julius Peppers and Tommy Harris is to run right at them. If the Bears are struggling as badly with the Martz passing offense as the preseason has led us to believe this is going to make it that much more important that they can run the ball. Given that the Lions defensive line looks to be very stalwart against the run that does not bode well for the Bears. Another key to this game is going to be how well the Lions secondary can jam receivers at the line and disrupt the delicate timing involved in the Martz offense. If there is no disruption of routes, and the Lions secondary fails to turn their head and not only locate but play the ball, the Bears and Martz just might have the last laugh. I fully expect some big passes against our secondary but I do not think it will be enough in the end for the Bears to win. It will also be interesting to see if Cutler can stay off his back and stay healthy. If the Lions coverage unit cannot keep Knox and Manning contained on kick offs it will keep the game closer than some might think but the Bears will still lose.
It should be noted also that the Lions have some key injuries at MLB and DB, ironically so do the Bears.
His assessment is koolaid driven. I think this will be a shootout that favors whoever can take the lead and run the clock out. I just see too many problems with the Lions LBs and CBs for them to be able to stop the NUMEROUS number of screens and 4-receier formations they will see on Sunday. LEt's not forget, that Greg Olsen is faster and bigger than any LB or Nickel on the Lions roster and will be flexed in and off the line to create matchups all afternoon. I see the Lions being able to get 23pts, but I don't see the Lions being able to stop the Bears from scoring 4 TDs (28pts).