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With the bye week in the rear-view mirror, the Bears' next opponent is the Lions. Let's take a look at the 2-3 team.
Last Year: Last year's edition of the Lions largely lived up to their four-game winning streak to close out 2009, starting out 5-0 and capping that streak with a win against the Bears - but finished the season 10-6, good for a wild card spot, and got knocked out of the playoffs in a 45-28 drubbing by the Saints - when your defense allows 626 yards, in addition to the 438 total allowed in their week 13 matchup, it just might hint that your defense is lacking.
This Year: Well, so far the 2012 Lions haven't lived up to the billing the 2011 Lions set out, as currently they're 2-3 with losses to the Niners, Titans and Vikings before finishing with an overtime victory against the Eagles.
When Last We Met: Oh, remember week 10? Good times, good times. If you don't remember, DJ Moore was ejected after Matthew Stafford threw him down by the helmet and he retaliated. Stafford also apparently played with a broken finger (which was extremely noticeable on the throwdown, by the way), leading to two interception returns for touchdowns for Major Wright and Charles Tillman and another pair of picks. Devin Hester also had a first-half punt return for a touchdown, and after a sub-par first half, the Bears just let the defense and Matt Forte take care of everything.
Total Yardage: 2nd
Total Points: 12th
Rushing Yardage: 19th
Passing Yardage: 2nd
The Lions still have some of the usual suspects - namely, Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew and Nate Burleson - but I wanted to highlight Reilly Reiff and Mikel Leshoure. No, the Lions still refuse to run the ball with regularity, though they are using it more and more even through they aren't particularly good at it. But Leshoure's been back for three games, three starts, and he leads the team in rushing with 196 yards on 54 carries. He runs with some decent power and can catch the ball out of the backfield a little bit, but he's coming in off missing his rookie year with injury and being suspended the first couple games of this year. And Reiff is a guy that was projected as a top-ten tackle, but what he's doing right now is coming in as an extra eligible tackle to provide some extra run blocking - against Philadelphia, Reiff was in on 22 of 78 offensive snaps - 28%.
Course, Calvin Johnson's still the focal point of the offense, and teams have been getting him under constant double coverage (safety help on the top) and playing tight and physical. He still gets the ball forced to him a fair amount - he's actually on pace for career bests in receptions and yards (7.0 receptions, 111.6 yards) but his big play threat is being nullified somewhat and just hasn't really broken out if you will - quietly having a pretty good season except for the lack of touchdowns. Burleson and Pettigrew chip in, but there really isn't a whole lot of help coming from elsewhere - not the running game, not Titus Young, and certainly not Ryan Broyles, who hasn't seen a meaningful stat yet.
Joique Bell is the team's third-down back, and not a bad one - when Leshoure returned, Kevin Smith (former starter) took the hit, and as a result really hasn't seen much playing time at all - in fact he spent the Eagles game on the inactive list.
Total Yardage: 9th
Total Points: 24th
Rushing Yardage: 12th
Passing Yardage: 16th
The first thing I should point out here is the return of Louis Delmas - Delmas missed the first four games but came in strong in his debut against the Eagles, picking up an interception and seven tackles. Delmas is a real player (seriously, I'd take him on the Bears in a heartbeat), and someone a Detroit secondary could badly use. The rest of the defense has changed very little with the exception of that aforementioned secondary - Jacob Lacey left the Eagles game twice with injury (most noticeably leaving for good with a concussion) and Bill Bently has his own shoulder injury, and the team worked out a pair of defensive backs (Aaron Berry and Justin Miller) this week before just today signing Alphonso Smith.
The defensive line has had a pretty slow start to the year - and they've picked up all the Lions' 12 sacks. Ndamukong Suh has 2.5 of them, but he hasn't been the same player that earned Rookie of the Year honors. Cliff Avril has 3.5 and Kyle Vanden Bosch has another 2.5, but neither has been that sharp either. Maybe they view this game as a "get well" game, but the Bears' offensive line has been better lately. And Justin Durant, Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy make up a good, but not fantastic, linebacking corps.
A major weakness of the Lions' defense is a continued inability to ballhawk. They've only got 2 interceptions on the year to go with 17 pass deflections. The Bears by contrast have 30 pass deflections and 13 interceptions. Generally, it's a team that doesn't rely much on turnovers, instead going with the "We can outscore you" philosophy, which worked out so well against New Orleans and even Tennessee this year, didn't it.
If the Bears do this...
Ideally, the Bears go with the Week 10 formula of "Get a lead, let Stafford make mistakes, and go to town." And currently, Stafford's thrown five interceptions this year to go with his four touchdowns. But barring that, the Bears now have their own number one wide receiver to deploy against a still-weak Detroit secondary, to go with the return of Earl Bennett (who, by the way, his 61.0 yards per game are the highest against any team he's faced more than once - except Philadelphia). Alshon Jeffery would be a help in this game, but that can't be helped. I'd look for the Bears' receiving corps to try to break loose in this one. Oh, also, getting Matt Forte another addition to his seven touchdowns against the Lions (four rushing, three receiving, best against any team, by far) would probably help as well.
If the Lions do this...
This is the career stat line, with averages, for a certain player against the Bears.... 45 receptions (5.0), 695 yards (77.2), 4 fouchdowns (0.5). That's Calvin Johnson, who the Bears have historically done remarkably against (well, one touchdown per pair of games per season, pretty much). He's only had one 100-yard game over his last five against the Bears - and that came on five receptions with the help of a 73-yard touchdown back in week 5 of 2011.
So the Lions have to get other players involved. Jahvid Best gave them a shifty rushing threat and dynamic receiver from the backfield, but he's out pretty much forever with a concussion, but they'll try Leshoure to get them something in the run game, and of course the the tight ends Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler. They'll also need to keep some solid protection against the Bears' D-Line, but if Stafford gets time, their receivers and tight ends could cause problems. Look for them to use a few more screens to Leshoure and Bell to keep the pass rush at bay.
Closing Thoughts: Well, the Lions aren't 5-0 like they were at week 6 last year, but they're fighting for .500, which makes them dangerous. Coming off the bye, the Bears can't get complacent (which I doubt they would anyway).