Behind Enemy Lines: Part III

Our Scout.com experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Nate Caminata of RoarReport.com, go Behind Enemy Lines to take a closer look at Sunday's Week 9 matchup between the Bears and Lions at Soldier Field. Let's finish this three-part series with some matchups to watch and final predictions.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: BEARS OFFENSE VS. LIONS DEFENSE
QB Kyle Orton vs. CBs Leigh Bodden and Brian Kelly:
In their first matchup, Orton torched Detroit's secondary for 334 passing yards, averaging nearly a first down (9.4 yards) per completion, which helped the Bears convert almost 50 percent of their third-down opportunities. This cannot happen again. The entire Lions defense has tighened since that Week 5 loss, stopping the run and pressuring the opposing quarterback. With that improvement, it's up to the secondary to take advantage of potential miscues and prevent Orton from finding those small seams and gaps in coverage.

The Lions can control the line of scrimmage, and if they shut down the passing lanes they'll have a chance.

RB Matt Forte vs. LB Ernie Sims: This is the week that Forte has to find his groove once again running the football, as he's averaged less than three yards per carry in three of his last four contests. Now the rookie has still been effective, moving the chains on third down and finding the end zone with regularity both rushing and receiving, but the Bears need to get the ground game going if they want to win in November and December – not to mention January if they make the playoffs. Even though Orton had a career game against the Lions in Detroit about a month ago, Forte is the main cog in Chicago's offensive wheel.

Sims is Detroit's leading tackler and most talented defender, so he'll be putting a bullseye on Forte from start to finish.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: LIONS OFFENSE VS. BEARS DEFENSE
RBs Kevin Smith and Rudi Johnson vs. Chicago Linebackers:
The two Lions runners combined for 13 total carries in the last meeting, represented in the 34-7 final score and lopsided time of possession (38:15 to 21:45). Smith and Johnson are both capable of breaking the line of scrimmage but must take that north-to-south mentality at Chicago's talented linebacking core, including Brian Urlacher.


WR Calvin Johnson
Scout Boehm/Getty Images

If Detroit can establish a ground game – this means more than 13 carries for 54 yards – it will force the Bears to keep eight men in the box and open up the team's playbook, meanwhile relieving pressure on a still-green QB Dan Orlovsky.

WR Calvin Johnson vs. CB Charles Tillman: The Chicago media's conference call with the Lions was much less colorful this week than it was before the first matchup, as Roy Williams – and his motor of a mouth – was traded to the Cowboys nine days after that 34-7 thumping at Ford Field. With Williams no longer in the mix, Johnson is now the focal point of a once-dangerous Detroit passing game that has taken a significant step back this year with veteran Jon Kitna on injured reserve and Mike Martz now coordinating the offense in San Francisco. Johnson has only caught six passes in two games since Williams' departure, although he's still produced 211 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Tillman, one of the league's most physical cornerbacks, should draw a ton of one-on-one coverage against Johnson even though he's been limited in recent weeks because of a shoulder problem.

THE LIONS WILL WIN THIS GAME IF ...
... they don't get way behind early again. Each week the Lions have seemed to make strides, with the most optimism surrounding the defensive line. The defensive front has brought more pressure each week and, although its midseason, might finally be finding its groove. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the secondary, which has allowed big plays that have doomed the Lions for the better part of the year. If Detroit can finally put it together defensively, the team's gradually-improving offense might throw enough points on the board to outlast Chicago.


K Robbie Gould
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

THE LIONS WILL LOSE THIS GAME IF ...
... they regress and/or don't show improvement this week. The Lions continue to practice strong, and even play strong. It isn't reflected in the standings, but a handful of horrid calls late in a game at Minnesota nullified a win. They also botched opportunities at Houston and last week against Washington. Simply put, they are staying in games minus their starting quarterback, Williams, a hodgepodge offensive line, and a losing mentality that has to be difficult to shake after seven consecutive losses. Yet they continue to do just enough to not win games, as well. Whether it's a defensive lapse or an offensive miscue, they have found a reason to lose a game. If they can't shake that bug, it won't matter what positives can be extracted.

THE BEARS WILL WIN THIS GAME IF ...
... they don't take Detroit for granted and play a full football game for four quarters. It would be very easy for the Bears to look past the Lions, especially with a home date against the undefeated Titans on the horizon in Week 10. Fortunately for the Midway Monsters, head coach Lovie Smith used the extra seven days during the bye week to hammer home the fact that anybody can beat anybody in the NFL these days.

THE BEARS WILL LOSE THIS GAME IF ...
... they have a bad day with regard to turnover ratio. Aside from Johnson, nobody on the Detroit offense, from the untested Orlovsky to the unproven Smith to the unstable offensive line, is going to make the Bears nervous, but it's amazing how many offenses can take advantage of short fields and turn them into points when given a slew of turnovers. Not only do Orton and Co. have to protect the pigskin, but punter Brad Maynard needs to continue his steady work and kicker Robbie Gould must keep splitting the uprights – both play a big part in Chicago's usual advantage in field position.

FINAL PREDICTIONS
Nate Caminata:
This is a winnable game for Detroit and a potential trap game for Chicago, but the Lions have simply not shown enough to warrant any kind of faith or optimistic prediction heading into a road contest against a division opponent. They might continue to show progress, but the inability to establish the run game and the lack of any kind of secondary presence will continue to debilitate Detroit ... BEARS 24, LIONS 17.

John Crist: Since the Bears handled the Lions 34-7 on the road back in Week 5, everyone is just assuming it's going to be a blowout Sunday at Soldier Field. But Detroit has shown a lot of fight in its last three games, which is a testament to head coach Rod Marinelli even though he's pretty much a dead man walking these days. I believe this game will be close at halftime, but Chicago should pull away in the second half and move to 5-3 ... BEARS 27, LIONS 13.

To go back and read Part I, where Nate answers five questions from John, Click Here. For Part II, where John answers five questions from Nate, Click Here.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report. Nate Caminata is the Publisher of RoarReport.com.


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