Behind Enemy Lines: Part III

Our Scout.com experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Nate Caminata of Roar Report, travel Behind Enemy Lines for a breakdown of Sunday's Week 4 matchup between the Lions and Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago. Let's finish this three-part series with matchups to watch and final predictions.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: BEARS OFFENSE VS. LIONS DEFENSE
Wide receivers vs. Defensive backs:
Detroit struggled with Washington's Santana Moss (10 catches, 178 yards) last week, while the Bears flaunt two receivers in Devin Hester and Johnny Knox with similar characteristics. They need to remedy that ill if they hope to keep Chicago's offense contained.

G Frank Omiyale vs. DTs Grady Jackson and Sammie Hill: The Midway Monsters are still looking to jell up front with three new starters, but most everyone is assuming tackles Orlando Pace and Chris Williams will be just fine. Omiyale, on the other hand, has never lined up at the guard position in his career and it shows, as the free-agent addition has not played very well and only got the starting gig because of the paper he was given by general manager Jerry Angelo in the offseason. While Hill is just a fourth-round rookie and should not pose much of a threat, Jackson is conservatively listed at 345 pounds and knows how to blow up a running game.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: LIONS OFFENSE VS. BEARS DEFENSE
RB Kevin Smith vs. Defensive line:
The Lions have enjoyed success the past two weeks against formidable defenses such as Minnesota and Washington, alleviating pressure on the passing game. That must continue against what should be an attacking Chicago defense on Sunday, which would love to put rookie QB Matthew Stafford on an island in already hostile territory.

TE Brandon Pettigrew vs. LB Jamar Williams: Stafford is fortunate to have a game-changing wideout like Calvin Johnson at his disposal, but a rookie QB develops quicker if he has a dependable tight end in the passing game. Pettigrew, like a Stafford a Round-1 selection this past April, was the best tight end in the draft and is oozing with physical tools at 6-5 and 263 pounds. It looks like Williams is going to be the starter at strong-side linebacker, so the special-teams ace will be charged with covering Pettigrew most of the day.


TE Brandon Pettigrew
Getty Images: Stephen Dunn

DETROIT WINS IF ...
... it controls the clock, which requires a consistent and productive running game. Smith is a game-time decision but should play. If Detroit can keep Chicago's defense honest, Stafford will have opportunities to connect with his very capable receiving targets.

DETROIT LOSES IF ...
... the offense becomes one-sided. Stafford isn't ready yet to win a game by himself, let alone on the road against a divisional opponent. The Lions' young gunslinger will increase his interception total if the game is heaved onto his shoulders.

CHICAGO WINS IF ...
... Lovie Smith an Co. take the Lions as seriously as they should and don't fall into the trap of looking forward to next week's bye. Yes, this Detroit club has turned over the roster by 58 percent and brought in a new coach since last year's 0-16 disaster, but the fact remains that the Bears are a better team on both sides of the ball. Provided Jay Cutler doesn't throw four interceptions again and they force Stafford into a few mistakes, the turnover margin should be in their favor.

CHICAGO LOSES IF ...
... the Lions are allowed to hang around and still have an opportunity to win in the second half. One sign of a good team is beating a bad team soundly and never giving them the impression they have a chance to emerge victorious, like the Ravens did a week ago facing an atrocious Browns squad. Cutler has already been forced to lead the Bears from behind in the fourth quarter against both the Steelers and Seahawks, so he may be running out of rabbits to pull out of his hat.

FINAL PREDICTIONS
Nate Caminata:
The Lions have gradually improved every week, but Sunday's win pushed them into another stratosphere entirely. Confidence and belief in this league is half the battle, and the Lions have both. They also have a balanced attack and a defense that is beginning to gel. Expect Detroit to ride the momentum of last week and clinch a crucial division battle at Soldier Field. LIONS 20, BEARS 17.

John Crist: While I'm sure the Motor City Kool-Aid is quite delicious coming off the organization's first win since Week 16 of the 2007 campaign, keep in mind that the Redskins are in tailspin mode and coach Jim Zorn's pants burst into flames every time he sits down. Chicago, conversely, has won two straight against teams picked by most experts to take their respective divisions, plus a 3-1 mark at the bye would earn a passing grade for the first quarter of the schedule. Cutler tears up a poor secondary, and Stafford turns it over more than once. BEARS 26, LIONS 16.

To go back and read Part I of this Behind Enemy Lines series, where Nate answered five questions from John, Click Here. To read Part II, where John answered five questions from Nate, Click Here.


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John Crist is the publisher of BearReport.com. Nate Caminata is the publisher of RoarReport.com.


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