It has been quite some time since the Bears have entered a game against the Lions as the underdogs, but after a quick 4-0 start from Detroit, it's not surprising the home team is getting the nod in this one. We had the chance to connect with Sean Yuille from Pride of Detroit (their 5Q post can be found here), and got his perspective on the upcoming game. Thanks, Sean, for taking the time.
1- We always like to hear about the front office of other teams... Tell us about the dynamic between Ford (owner), Lewand (President), Mayhew (GM), and Schwartz (HC). How do they each contribute to the organization, and how do Lions fans feel about the current regime?
Sean: William Clay Ford is a pretty hands-off owner, which is how Matt Millen managed to keep his job for as long as he did. When Millen was finally canned, Martin Mayhew took over as the interim GM and quickly managed to get three draft picks (including a first-rounder) from the Cowboys for Roy Williams. After the 0-16 season, Mayhew had the interim tag removed, Tom Lewand was promoted (he deals more with operational stuff than personnel decisions) and Jim Schwartz was hired as the head coach.
The best thing about the current front office and coaching staff is that they're all on the same page. That was never the case during the Millen era, which is why things went so poorly. Mayhew and Schwartz put together a plan to rebuild the franchise in early 2009, and they have stuck to that plan. So far the results show that it is working, and Mayhew deserves a lot of credit for amassing so much talent via the draft, free agency and several trades.
2- The Lions' roster has some very recognizable names (Stafford, CJohnson, Suh, Fairley, etc), but tell us about some lesser-known players that could make a significant impact during the 2011 season.
Sean: On offense, the Lions' tight ends seem to get overlooked since there are so many other weapons. Brandon Pettigrew is very athletic and can make plays by catching the ball and by serving as a blocker. Tony Scheffler is also very athletic, and he is able to line up at tight end or even in the slot to make plays in the passing game.
Defensively, defensive tackle Corey Williams is very underrated. He is overshadowed by Ndamukong Suh, who deserves all of the credit he gets. Williams also deserves a lot of credit, though. He is excellent at stuffing the middle of the line and giving Suh some room to work with. I know a lot of people are expecting Nick Fairley to come in and become a starter, but Williams isn't going to give up his spot that easily.
3- What would you say are the weakest areas/ biggest concerns of the Lions both offensively and defensively?
Sean: Offensively, the biggest concern is the lack of a run game. The Lions can pass the ball very well, but the run game has been a struggle all year. The offensive line just doesn't seem to do a good job of run blocking, and some of the plays they use to try to get the run game going don't seem to be very effective. In today's NFL a number of teams don't seem to mind not having a run game, but it is a concern going forward.
On defense, I would say the secondary is probably the biggest concern. Cornerbacks Eric Wright and Chris Houston have done very well this season, but Tony Romo did torch the secondary last week before he decided to start passing only to Lions players. I don't necessarily think the secondary is a huge concern, but it's probably the biggest weakness on defense.
4- In your eyes, what will be the key personnel match-ups Monday night against the Bears?
Sean: To me, the Lions should have two main goals for Monday: contain Matt Forte and get to Jay Cutler. Forte is the biggest threat on the Bears offense in my mind, and as he showed last year, he can beat the Lions on the ground and coming out of the backfield as a receiver. The Lions need to keep him in check to win, and they also need to make sure they attack the Bears' offensive line and keep Cutler under pressure from start to finish.
5- Even though it's way too early, give us your prediction as to how the NFC North ends up after 16 games this year.
Sean: The Lions' schedule the second half of the season is very tough, and although I do think they will reach double digit wins, I think the Packers will ultimately win the NFC North. The Thanksgiving game between the Lions and Packers will be important for the NFC North race, as will the season finale between the two teams on New Year's Day. I wouldn't be shocked if the Lions won on Thanksgiving, but in the end I think the Packers will emerge as the division champions.
Bonus Question: Who would you want as the starting QB for the Lions for the next 6-8 years, if you could continue building up the rest of the roster around them: Jay Cutler or Matthew Stafford?
Sean: This answer won't be any surprise considering I'm a Lions fan, but there's no question I would take Stafford. Despite his injury issues, he has shown tremendous ability to not only lead the offense, but to execute it. Obviously it helps having so many weapons, but Stafford is somebody that could become one of the top quarterbacks in the league if he can stay healthy. Obviously that's a big if given all that's happened, but I would rather take my chances with Stafford than have Cutler as my franchise quarterback.
Thanks again to Sean for taking the time to give us some great insight... We 'preciate you!