Last week, the Detroit Lions completed another unbelievable comeback at the hand of the Dallas Cowboys, edging them out 34-30. I'm not usually one to toot my own horn, but sitting at 4-0, I'm feeling extra cocky this week, especially considering my prediction of 30-27 was pretty close, once again.
This week, the Lions host the Chicago Bears and the Monday Night Football crew. This will be the first time the Lions host a regular season Monday Night Football game in almost exactly ten years (their last appearance was Oct. 8, 2001) and Ford Field will be bumping. The Lions are six-point favorites, according to Vegas, but what do the almighty charts say?
Lions Pass Offense (7th) vs. Bears Pass Defense (29th)
Unfortunately, I jinxed the Lions' perfect chart last week and we are left with one annoying red spot. Matthew Stafford had a rough day against the Cowboys, but managed to somewhat turn it around in the second half. Still, his inaccuracies trickled into the second half as well. Remember that should-have-been-a-touchdown-to-Calvin play late in the game?
Anyway, it'll be something to look for, but likely was just homecoming jitters for Matt. Given that the nation will be watching again, Stafford will need to control those anxieties. In fact, the Lions look like they'll be playing in a lot of big games this year, so Stafford will likely learn to keep a level head and a steady arm.
The Bears' 29th ranking is quite deceptive after looking at the chart. The Bears have faced three of the top five passing offenses, and the other is Atlanta. They have held three of their opponents below their average passer rating, but have given up ratings of over 110 twice. The Bears have eight total sacks (19th in the league), two from Lions-foe Julius Peppers. Other interesting stats: the Bears rank 26th in completion percentage, 17th in interceptions (3), and 17th in yards per attempt allowed. Overall, they appear to be an average, or slightly below average, passing defense.
This comes as great news to Lions fans, who had to deal with one of the best passing defenses last week. If the Lions can contain Peppers like they mostly did with DeMarcus Ware last week, expect big numbers. Lions +3.
Lions Run Offense (29th) vs. Bears Run Defense (20th)
Last week, most fans (myself included) were again disappointed in the Lions' rushing attack. Jim Schwartz, however, disagreed, saying that half of the Lions running plays were "efficient". After looking at the chart, I have to agree that they performed better than previous weeks. Still, the Lions have yet to break out a big run, or strike fear in their opponent with the likes of Jahvid Best and Keiland Williams.
.As you can see, every opponent up to this date has hit the century mark against the Bears on the ground. Once again, everything looks a little below average for the Bears: 20th in overall yards allowed, 28th in yards per carry allowed (5.1) but eighth in rushing TDs allowed (2).
If there's a week for the Lions' running game to break out, this may be it. However, I don't expect it to be a big part of the gameplan, unless they jump out to an early lead. They'll continue to run the ball, but not rely on it. So we end up with a push.
Bears Pass Offense (25th) vs. Lions Pass Defense (12th)
After a very promising start against the Falcons, the Bears passing attack has fallen off the map. They held their own against Green Bay, but so has every other opponent. The Bears are 26th in passer rating (77.8), 31st in sacks allowed (15), and 28th in completion percentage (54.2%). All of the problems that people predicted the Bears would have on offense are coming to fruition. Their pass protection is struggling without Olin Kreutz and with a rookie tackle. The Bears are also lacking a go-to receiver. Matt Forte is their leader in both receptions and receiving yards. Newly acquired First-Down Signaler Roy Williams has only amassed five receptions for 70 yards. This is a unit still struggling to find its identity outside of "check-down to Forte."
After seemingly getting destroyed by the Cowboys' passing attack, it's pretty surprising to see that they actually held the Cowboys right at their season averages. Sure they were aided by a bit of a Tony Romo meltdown, but a lot of credit goes to the Lions defense for taking advantage of his mistakes. Last week aside, it appears the Lions have a somewhat average pass defense, according to the charts. According to raw statistics, however, they look much better. They rank fifth (!!) in passer rating allowed, third (!!!!!) in yards per attempt allowed, and have the third most interceptions (7). As mentioned last week, a lot of that may have to do with weak opponents, but looking at the chart, we see that they've held these teams below their already-low averages (though not by much).
Overall, I expect the Bears to perform at or slightly below their averages. Considering their averages are in the lower third of the league, the advantage favors the Lions +1.5.
Bears Run Offense (20th) vs. Lions Run Defense (20th)
The Bears have struggled with their running game all season. That is, until last week when Forte went wild with 205 yards on 25 carries (8.2 a carry). The Panthers have one of the worst run defenses in the league, but the Bears destroyed their season averages. The Bears rushed for more yards last week than they had in their previous three games. However, despite all of the red, the Bears' running game is better than advertised. They actually rank sixth in yards per carry (4.7). The problem is they have been relying on their passing game. They have only attempted 82 rushes, which is 30th in the league.
Opponents seem to have the Lions' number in the running game. They have used misdirection plays to suck in over-aggressive linemen and it has been working. The Lions are giving up an eighth worst 4.8 a carry and have fallen to 20th in yards allowed. Things aren't all bad, as the Lions have faced some of the best rushing attacks in the league thus far.
Overall, I think the advantage has to go to the Bears here. The Lions can avoid this disadvantage by jumping out to an early lead, but given the way things have gone lately, I wouldn't bank on that. Bears +1.
The Lions come out with a pretty significant 3.5 advantage. Just looking at the rankings, you can see that the Bears are not the division-winning team that they were last year. Coming into the year, I didn't think I'd be saying this, but this is a game the Lions should undoubtedly win. The first halves of the past two games were scary, but it's the way you finish games, not start them. The Lions have played well at home throughout the preseason and against the Chiefs, so I hardly expect another 20-point deficit. And with the crowd extra-pumped for their 4-0 team on a Monday night, I have a hard time believing they'll walk away losers. This could get ugly for Chicago. Lions 34, Bears 17.