Each week we sit down with our friends at our sister blog to get insights into the Bears opponent for the week. This week brings the Bears first meeting with the Detroit Lions and friend of the blog Chris Perfett brings his unique brand of existential crisis to the table. Make sure you check out Pride of Detroit as they do some fun trolling of that team that wears green and mustard.
Windy City Gridiron: This seems crazy late in the calendar for this to be the first meeting with the Lions. So many years the Bears and Lions have kicked off the season together. Can you give us a quick recap of this 5-4 team and if they're trending up or down?
Pride of Detroit: I think they're trending diagonally, or maybe sideways. Detroit has been for the past few seasons a very hard team to figure out. Very inconsistent, glaring faults that get masked by brilliant play in other facets, hot streaks that appear and vanish, Stafford's cannon erupting at proper times. It is chaos swimming along the event horizon of a black hole. Even now, nine games into the season, I don't know what to make of this Lions team. The secondary has been the steady constant with Glover Quin and Darius Slay, but the rest of the defense has waxed and waned - great run stopping early on has turned around and let up chunk yardage in a couple games now, while Jarrad Davis has looked a bit more like a rookie in the past few games.
The offense baffles. The shine came off of Jim Bob Cooter this year as a very dynamic 2016 offense vanished in mist and was replaced by a team that keeps insisting to try to run on first down and ends the game with 2.3 yards per play on the ground. I think losing Anquan Boldin was a bigger hit than some fans like to admit, as well. It's still an offense that can put in plays and Stafford and his receivers remain dynamic, but there's some points in a game where a first down seems like an impossibility.
Some fans loudly proclaim there's no reason the Lions can't run the table with the rest of this schedule. I know better. The NFL operates on chaos, and the Lions are themselves chaos. Chaos squared is not going to run the table. It's going to be amusing and fascinating, but it makes these predictions, even after nine games, utterly improbable.
Editors note: Since I’ve exchanged questions with Chris a few times, I know he hates predictions...but I didn’t expect him to not even want to answer a question about trends. The guy is snake bit.
WCG: Matthew Stafford, the $135M man, is sporting some good numbers at this point in the year, on pace for over 4,000 yards and a chance at 30 TDs. Where are Lions fans with Stafford? Do they believe that he's the guy to capture the first SB trophy for Detroit?
PoD: Lions fans are a diverse bunch, but we'll spare the Same Old Lions crowd from having their voice heard. it's a decent contract for the price. Just wait a little bit more and someone will be giving Kirk Cousins enough that the numbers stop mattering.
WCG: With the Bears headed for a regime change, one of the hot names being bandied about is Jim Bob Cooter. Can you give us a scouting report on Cooter and his potential for head coaching greatness?
PoD: As I said earlier, the shine's come a bit off Cooter. To be honest, I can't see him being a head coach. I know NFL fans think he's ready but this guy was a meager quarterback coach at the start of the 2015 season and was basically an assistant for his entire career before then. He lacks any and all experience you'd want in a head coach. I mean, if y'all want him I don't see why you shouldn't try, but it's probably not going to end well.
I don't know if Cooter is great or not. I think he's become a meme, part due to his southern name that all ya'll yankees think is pretty funny, and in part due to Stafford catching fire in 2016. But this ain't 2016 now; even if it was we're still talking about a coaching hire that'd have two and a half years of offensive coordinator under his belt at max. In a vacuum, maybe that gets you a job coaching a Mountain West school, Fresno State, things of that nature. But certainly it's not a resume that qualifies you for a top seat in the NFL.
WCG: The bugaboo for the Lions in recent years hasn't been Stafford's play but the lack of a consistent running game. Has that improved with the addition of TJ Lang on the offensive line and Ameer Abdullah seemingly healthy for the first time in his career?
PoD: The Lions need to establish the run game.
The offensive line seems to be the primary offender here, because it's bad across the board. There might have been an improvement with Abdullah healthy but if there was one, it was miniscule, a measure of like a tenth of a yard average increase or whatever. It's still folly to try to run with this team. There's far better options for screen passing and short yardage plays that don't require Abdullah hitting the hole and going backwards.
The Lions need to establish the run game.
ThE lIoNs NeEd To EsTaBlIsH tHe RuN gAmE
Editorial Note: This is the verbatim response. Again, existential crisis. Maybe he’s saying Caldwell is a robot? I don’t know, you be the judge.
WCG: Let's shift over to the defensive side of the ball before we run out of time. Seemingly, the Lions have been a slightly above average unit, similar to the Bears defense. This is a monumental jump from the no-good, very bad 2016 unit. What's been the difference? Who should Bears fans watch out for on Sunday?
PoD: There is no time here. This is eternity and a day, a half-light where numbers have dictated the existence of this reality.
There were efforts made to shore up the linebacker unit, which was the achilles heel of this team in 2016. Tahir Whitehead is playing more naturally again, and Jarrad Davis has been a good addition, albeit he's looking less impressive in the last few games. The defensive line has yet to find its legs and Ezekiel Ansah has been a ghost when it comes to production on the edge rush. That said, Anthony Zettel has been productive and the tackles have been improving, particularly with the Lions Very Large Son A'Shawn Robinson.
The secondary is the strength. Glover Quin is playing at an All-Pro level for a safety right now, and Darius Slay remains one of the top corners in this league, even if no one really talks about him all that much.
Editorial note: Okay, seriously, let’s get a call in to the local authorities to make sure Chris is okay!
WCG - Bonus Question: I have watched every Thursday night game this year and besides the stellar all navy uniforms of the Bears, most of the uniforms are pretty terrible. This next Thursday, the Lions are rolling out an all grey uniform with the Honolulu Blue Lion, stripes, and accessories. You dig?
PoD: I'm so tired of jerseys. What happened to shirts vs skins
Editorial Note: Ummmm, yeah, hard pass on that. I think I actually dig the grey uni’s.
Thank you to Chris and PoD for the trip down the rabbit hole!