Game Day: Detroit at Chicago

RoarReport.com prepares fans for Sunday's season opener at Chicago ...

GAME DAY INTERACTION

After a long off-season, many improvements, and the coming-of-age of quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Detroit Lions enter the 2010 NFL season with expectations that aren't accompanied by a chuckle.

The Lions will open the campaign at division rival Chicago, attempting to do something they haven't accomplished in two seasons: win a road game.

Below, the RoarReport.com staff has compiled all of the necessities (short of alcohol, food dip, and a recliner) to prepare anxious Lions fans for kick-off!

INTERACT: Join fellow fans in our live, game day chat that begins at 12 p.m. (EST). The chat room is located at: http://lions.mandressed.com/chat/index.php
(Note: Login is not related to your RoarReport.com username/password. Just type in a username and go!)

THE DEN MESSAGE BOARD: Each week, our wildly popular Detroit Lions fan forum begins a "Game Day" thread, a live, running dialogue of commentary from fans watching the game that runs throughout the contest. It is also a great place to hang, whether your need to celebrate, complain, or share an opinion. Check out the message board now ...

 

GAME DAY PRIMER

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 9/12/10
SURFACE: Natural Grass
TV: FOX (Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick)
 
PREDICTION: Lions 24 -- Bears 17
 
SCOUT.COM HEADLINES
 - Chicago
Injury Report
Sunday Snapshot
Low Expectations Don't Bother Bears
Kreutz Praises Rookie Suh
 
SCOUT.COM HEADLINES
 - Detroit
Behind Enemy Lines Part 1
Behind Enemy Lines Part 2
Behind Enemy Lines Part 3
Lions 'D' Ready For Cutler, Bears
Notebook: Levy Likely Out
KEYS TO THE GAME: To protect QB Jay Cutler, who was sacked 10 times in his final four quarters of preseason play, the Bears will ride Matt Forte and Chester Taylor behind an offensive line with four starters in positions they didn't occupy full-time last season. The lack of cohesion showed in the preseason. There will be opportunities for both teams to strike downfield against shaky safeties. Lions' rookie RB Jahvid Best adds an explosive playmaker to the offense. He'll line up in the slot and get carries to create mismatches. Likewise, the Bears will shuffle DE Julius Peppers to multiple positions to force the Lions to adjust blocking protection and account for him on every down.  FAST FACTS: Cutler was never sacked five times in a game last season. He was sacked five time in one half of the Aug. 22 preseason game vs. Oakland. ... RB Matt Forte' had two 100-yard games last season -- both against Detroit. ... Lions QB Matthew Stafford had 296 yards passing in his only start against the Bears in 2009. He was also sacked a season-high five times.

SIDELINE REPORT

CHICAGO
-  One thing the Bears will not be burdened by this season is great expectations.
   Fans, media and run-of-the-mill bystanders are adjusting their sights downward when they look ahead to Lovie Smith's seventh season in Chicago. That's understandable given last year's 7-9 season and this year's 0-4 preseason.
   Not even the odds-makers think much of the Bears. Even though they're at home Sunday at noon against the Lions, who have won just twice in the past two seasons, the Bears are only 6 1/2-point favorites.
   "That's kind of the mentality out there right now," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "Everyone is a little bit down on us, a little bit disappointed (in) last year and then preseason wise. Offensively, we haven't been as high flying as we were predicted to be. That's fine. Under the radar isn't a bad thing."
   The Bears aren't even on most radar screens when it comes to talk of the postseason, but that has little effect on their locker room. Players insist they're not motivated by the lack of respect or their record in the preseason because they don't put much stock in either.
   "We don't really pay a lot of attention to the record as much in the preseason," defensive end Julius Peppers said. "We were just trying to get better in different phases of the game. Right now everybody is 0-0. That's the reality of it. There's no added pressure or any chip (on our shoulders) from anything that happened in the preseason. This is a fresh start as far as we're concerned."
   The Bears were 2-2 in the preseason before they went to Super Bowl XLI, and they were 3-1 last year and in 2007, but they finished 7-9 both years. So, any lack of faith that comes from a mundane preseason is not shared by the players.
   "The preseason was the preseason," cornerback Zack Bowman said. "Those games don't count. Obviously the season is here and these games do (count). We're like, 'It's all opinion.' We can't worry about what other people think about us. We know inside this locker room we're a good team. So we're going to go out there and prove it."
   The prejudging, good or bad, is just part of the deal according to coach Lovie Smith, who pointed out that the Saints were coming off an 8-8 year, when they won the Super Bowl last season.
   "That's what you do in the preseason; that's what you do in the off-season," Smith said of the prognostications. "You have a lot of experts; we're all experts based on what we think. I guess that matters before you play. But once you get to game week, it really doesn't matter. You can't really tell what a team will do."
   Cutler said gloomy predictions by outsiders have no bearing on what will happen Sunday against the Lions.
   "It is what it is," the quarterback said. "You can't get caught up in that. You can't get distracted by what anybody is saying no matter how good it is or how bad it is."
   While Peppers is considered by many as a solution to some of the problems that plagued the Bears last season, Cutler is looked at by some as part of the problem, considering he threw a league-high 26 interceptions to offset his 27 TD passes.
   "Last year I took a hit obviously," Cutler said. "I had a little step-down there. I'm growing. Every experience you learn more and more. I'm excited about this year."
   The next step is getting the doubters to believe.
 



DETROIT - Dominic Raiola is beginning his 10th season as the Lions' center. But as far as he's concerned, he was born yesterday.
   "I don't think it's fair to talk about what's happened here in the past because, look around this room -- this roster isn't even close to being the same," he said. "You are talking about an entirely different team. I don't want any of these guys in here to associate themselves with the Lions teams of the past. If you are talking about the 2008 Lions, I don't associate Jahvid Best or Matthew Stafford with that team. It's totally different now."
   Like it or not, the 2010 Lions will carry some of the baggage from the past, like the 20-game road losing streak it will take into Soldier Field Sunday.
   "There are some guys that have had a long drought and there are some guys in here that are used to winning on the road that are walking into this situation for the first time," coach Jim Schwartz said. "It's like last year after we lost the first two games and I was asked how it felt to lose 19 in a row. I was like, 'Jeez, can't you let us be 0-2?' We didn't lose 19 in a row. You can't hold these guys accountable for what's happened in the past."
   Clearly, the offense is different than most of the teams that contributed to the 20 straight road losses. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and his system, and his position coaches, and his quarterback, and his offensive line, are starting their second year in Detroit. It's the first time in Raiola's tenure all those things have been in place for two years in a row.
   In addition, there's some weaponry. That too is different. Besides quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson, the Lions have a diversely-skilled running back with game-breaking speed in rookie Jahvid Best, a proven complementary receiver in Nate Burleson and two versatile tight ends in Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler.
   Teams are going to have to game plan for more than just Johnson or the Lions' passing game now.
   But -- and with the Lions there's always a but -- the defense looks every bit as accommodating as it has the last couple of years.
   That's with a revamped defensive line. With the additions of defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, defensive tackle Corey Williams and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the second overall pick in the draft, joining holdover defensive end Cliff Avril, the Lions have a formidable front four.
   But there are mostly concerns behind it. Their two best players in the back seven, middle linebacker DeAndre Levy and safety Louis Delmas missed most of the preseason with groin injuries and they both missed practice on Wednesday.
   With those two, the back seven is iffy, without them there is little hope. 
   Julian Peterson, at 32, is the only established starting linebacker. Zach Follett, who was fighting his way off the practice squad at this time last season, will start at the other outside spot -- at least for now. 
   If Levy can't play, veteran Landon Johnson would probably start, though Johnson has been pushing for Follett's spot on the outside all through camp.
   In the secondary, the Lions are counting on some reclamation projects to come through. Chris Houston and Jonathan Wade are the starting cornerbacks, both flamed out with their previous teams. Pushing them will be former second-round pick Alphonso Smith, who was about to be released by Denver before the Lions came offering a fourth-string tight end (Dan Gronkowski).
   If Delmas can't play, or can't play at his usual level, then the Lions could be going with undrafted rookie Randy Phillips or third-round draft pick Amari Spievey, who was converted from cornerback late in camp, to start alongside veteran C.C. Brown
   The Bears' offensive coordinator Mike Martz, broomed out of Detroit with Steve Mariucci, has to be licking his chops. 

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