Quarterback: Matthew Stafford
A healthy Stafford is a productive Stafford. He's played just 13 games the past two seasons but has come out of the gates red hot this year. His 100.4 passer rating ranks sixth in the NFL. His 11 passing touchdowns are more than every quarterback not named Brady, Rodgers or Brees. He's thrown just three interceptions and is averaging more than 300 yards per game through the air. Now in his third season, he's shown good accuracy and decision making, to go along with his strong arm. Stafford has not reached elite-level status yet, and never will if he can't stay healthy, but his play right now is top-tier.
Running back: Jahvid Best
Best is just as adept a pass catcher as he is a runner. He's a dual threat that has the quickness and speed to produce game-changing plays. Last season, he struggled with turf toe injuries to both feet but is healthy now. Yet his numbers on the ground rank near the bottom of the league. He's averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and has gained more yards through the air (205) than on the ground (190). The Lions front five have struggled opening holes for Best and as a result have fallen behind early in all but one of Detroit's games. Still, he's a threat to take it to the house on any given play.
WR Calvin Johnson
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Wide receiver: Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Titus Young
I remember seeing Johnson play in college at a Georgia Tech/Clemson game and thinking, "Boy is he going to be good in the NFL." He's dealt with injuries and erratic quarterback play for most of his career but everyone knew the potential was there. With a healthy Stafford throwing him the ball, "Megatron" has finally arrived. He's caught 24 passes for 321 yards and 8 touchdowns, which leads the league. Opposing defenses have tried to double and triple team him but his blend of size and speed has been too much for them to handle. He's the best receiver in the league in jump ball situations and can absolutely take over games. Behind him is the veteran Burleson and rookie Young. Burleson is a threat after the catch while Young is more of a possession player used out of the slot.
Tight end: Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Schefler
Pettigrew is second on the team in receptions (22) receiving yardage (240) and targets (31). The third-year player is having a breakout season, using his size (6-5, 265) and speed to take advantage of opposing linebackers and safeties. He is typically the first or second option, behind only Johnson, on most Detroit passing plays. He can be very disruptive when forgotten about and has capitalized on the attention opposing defenses are giving Megatron. Schefler has caught just three passes on the year but two have gone for touchdowns. He's a threat in the red zone only.
Offensive line: LT Jeff Backus, LG Rob Sims, C Dominic Raiola, RG Stephen Peterman, RT Gosder Cherilus
As a unit, this group has been very good in pass protection but has struggled in run blocking. The team is averaging just 3.0 yards per carry and 74.5 yards per game on the ground. Their inability to move the pile has created large first-half deficits for the offense to overcome. Peterman especially has had issues on the inside. Backus is a solid veteran on the backside and the most consistent of the front five. Sims is a six-year veteran who is strong and anchors well inside, although he struggles at the second level. Raiola is a savvy vet who uses good angles and technique to get the job done, although he lacks strength and can get run over by power rushers. Cherilus is steadily improving but still has bouts of inconsistency. He often plays too high when run blocking but he's been solid in pass protection.
Defensive line: DE Cliff Avril, DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Corey Williams, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch. Backups - DE Lawrence Jackson, DT Sammie Hill, DT Nick Fairley, DE Willie Young
Detroit vaunted defensive line is giving up 113 rushing yards per game to opposing offenses and has only 9.0 total sacks, just one more than the Bears. They've been effective but far from dominant. The leader is Suh, who is an absolute force on the inside and is arguably the best defensive tackle in the game. He's quick, has strong hands and an endless motor. He take over games when he's at his best. Williams plays nose tackle and does a decent job maintaining his ground at the point of attack. On the outside, Vanden Bosch and Avril are very good pass rushers. Vanden Bosch already has 3.0 sacks, with Avril adding 1.0 of his own. Chicago's offensive tackles will have their hands full tonight. Fairley, the first-round rookie out of Auburn, may make an appearance in this game, which would be his first of the season due to a foot injury. Expect some rust from him if he does play.
LB Stephen Tulloch
Kim Klement/US Presswire
Linebackers: OLB Justin Durant, MLB Stephen Tulloch, OLB DeAndre Levy
The team added Tulloch and Durant this offseason and the group has played extremely well up to this point. Tulloch is a rangy middle linebacker that can fill gaps and chase ball carriers to the sidelines. He leads the team in tackles (26) while adding a sack and an interception. Levy's move to the outside, where he's better suited, has lifted his play. He's second on the team in tackles (24) and has been a force against the run. Durant is third in tackles (21) and is very good in coverage. This a strong unit.
Secondary: CB Chris Houston, CB Eric Wright, FS Louis Delmas, SS Amari Spievey, NCB, Brandon McDonald. Backups – S Vincent Fuller, CB Aaron Berry
This is a ball-hawking secondary that creates a lot of turnovers, especially on the outside. Detroit is third in the NFC with seven team interceptions. Houston has been outstanding so far this year. He has three interceptions, one which he returned for a touchdown last week, to go along with six passes defended. He's a shutdown corner who excels in man coverage. Wright has bounced back from a poor 2010 in Cleveland and is playing well. He's fifth on the team in tackles (20), two have gone for a loss, to go along with an interception and three passes defended. Delmas and Spievey are dealing with injuries but are expected to play. Both are solid against the run but have been spotty in coverage. Berry and McDonald have rotated at nickel corner but neither have done much. The team signed Fuller this week to provide depth at a safety position that has been beaten up so far this year. If Bears QB Jay Cutler is off target tonight, expect this unit to take advantage.
K Jason Hanson, P Ryan Donahue, KR-PR Stefan Logan
Hanson, at the ripe-old age of 41, is having a career year. He's 10 for 10 so far in field goals, including three from 50 yards or beyond. Donahue is averaging 45.0 yards per punt, 17th best in the league. His seven punts inside the 20-yard line rank sixth overall. Logan is a dynamic return man who has outstanding speed. He's a homerun threat every time he touches the ball.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.