RB Kevin Jones vs. LB Brian Urlacher
This will be the first time in a long time when we don't get to talk about FB Cory Schlesinger against Urlacher. However, that doesn't mean Detroit will abandon the running game either. Look for the Lions to attempt to establish Jones early and often, and whether or not Urlacher and Co. can force the Lions to go one-dimensional throughout the contest.
Matchup to watch when the Lions are on defense:
Detroit's defensive backs vs. Chicago's wide receivers
This one should be obvious after Philadelphia: Can Detroit's secondary respond after the annihilation against Donovan McNabb? Certainly, Brian Griese is no McNabb, but redemption is key if the Lions hope to have some semblance of a pass defense heading into the rest of the season. How they perform against Chicago could very easily dictate how the remainder of the campaign will bode for the team's defense.
LB Ernie Sims
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
FB Jason McKie vs. LB Ernie Sims
Paris Lenon may be Detroit's starting middle linebacker, but it's Sims on the weak side who leads the Lions in tackles and is destined to be a perennial Pro Bowler. Cedric Benson has not run the ball very effectively so far this season and could very well lose some carries to second-stringer Adrian Peterson on Sunday, which means that McKie will have even more pressure on him to help create holes and spring his tailbacks for some big gains.
Benson's long rush in three games is only 13 yards while Peterson's is just 12, plus the switch at quarterback from Rex Grossman to Griese could keep the passing game in limbo for a while.
Matchup to watch when the Bears are on defense:
CB Trumaine McBride vs. WR Roy Williams
The Bears are absolutely decimated in the secondary, so it looks like McBride, a seventh-round rookie from Ole Miss, will start at cornerback with both Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher likely out of the lineup. Defensive coordinator Bob Babich should play a lot of zone on Sunday in order to protect all of his inexperienced defensive backs, which means McBride will have to deal with Williams in coverage from time to time.
Not only is McBride severely overmatched as far as physical tools are concerned – he's 5'10" and 180 pounds compared to Williams at 6'4" and 210 – but Williams is becoming more of a complete wideout every week and torched Philadelphia to the tune of 204 yards receiving just last Sunday.
The Lions will win this game if ...
... they can rush the passer and alleviate pressure on the secondary. The Lions struggled to reach McNabb, who had ample time in the pocket last weekend. Detroit should welcome back Kalimba Edwards at defensive end, which will help, but that defensive front four should simply be reinvigorated after a lousy performance at Philly. The offense will take care of itself. This game is on the defense.
The Lions will lose this game if ...
It is imperative that the Lions not only rush the passer but also stop the run. Detroit has notoriously been the cure to all team's ills (ask the Eagles for confirmation), and the Bears' inability to run has been well documented. The one way to stop the Detroit offense is to keep it off the field, which means controlling the clock and time of possession. If Chicago is able to run the ball and establish a passing game, Jon Kitna and Co. will be forced sit on the sideline and watch another loss unfold without having enough opportunities to respond.
The Bears will win this game if ...
... they win the turnover battle. Kitna has put up some pretty impressive numbers in the passing game as a Lion, but he's prone to interceptions and was sacked nine times against the Eagles last week. The Monsters of the Midway have bragged since training camp about how much depth they have as a defensive unit, but all that tough talk will be put to the test with Tillman and Vasher likely out, LB Lance Briggs and DT Tommie Harris battling their respective injuries, S Adam Archuleta giving it a go with a broken hand, and green rookies like McBride, CB Corey Graham, and S Kevin Payne being asked to play significant snaps.
They need DEs Mark Anderson, Adewale Ogunleye, and Alex Brown to terrorize Kitna all day long with a fierce pass rush and force some mistakes, plus Babich may have to get extra-aggressive with his blitz packages in order to protect his secondary.
TE Greg Olsen
M. Spencer Green/AP Images
... the change from Grossman to Griese doesn't do the trick. Chicago currently owns the 30th-ranked offense in the NFL, a far cry from the unit that was throwing the ball all over the field during training camp and featured explosive new additions like converted corner Devin Hester at receiver and rookie Greg Olsen at tight end. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner has not been very imaginative thus far, although poor play by the offensive line had Grossman and his troops fighting an uphill battle from the starting gun.
Griese is very accurate and a high-percentage passer with short and intermediate throws, but he'll have to turn this offense completely around in a hurry because the Lions are going to score a fair share of points themselves.
Nate Caminata: A few years ago, anyone with an IQ above room temperature could tell you the disastrous path Detroit would be on following a blowout loss the week before. However, this is supposed to be a different Lions team, and in other adverse situations this year they have responded. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt – this time. If the Dallas offense can expose Chicago at Soldier Field, then the Detroit offense should put enough distance between the two ballclubs at Ford Field ...
LIONS 34, BEARS 24
John Crist: No question about it, the next three weeks will make or break the Bears' year: at Detroit, at Green Bay, and Minnesota at home. If they can sweep all three division opponents and get themselves to 4-2, all will be right with the world and a third consecutive NFC North title would then be reasonable. But if they lose Sunday against a Lions team anxious to prove that it's for real, the Midway Monsters could be staring another Super-Bowl-loser jinx right in the face. Chicago was a much better team than Detroit on opening day, but nothing will derail a season in the NFL quicker than a flurry of key injuries. I see Kitna throwing for well over 300 yards and exploiting this M.A.S.H. unit of a secondary ...
LIONS 27, BEARS 20