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Bears player to watch against Lions: Matt Forte

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This week, the opposing player to watch against the Detroit Lions is Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

I would have loved to take this opportunity to rip on Jay Cutler once again after his demotion. Not just a demotion. A demotion in favor of Jimmy Clausen. Fantastic. You cannot make this stuff up.

Instead, let's talk about someone who is actually going to play this week: running back Matt Forte. Midway through the season, Forte looked unstoppable. The Chicago Bears were shoveling him 25 to 30 touches per week, and he was putting in huge yardage numbers regularly. In six games this season, Forte has gone over 150 yards from scrimmage, and he's gone over 100 in three more.

A big portion of those yardage figures have come through the "air." I put air in quotations because they were really more like extended handoffs and screens than actual routes, but I digress. Regardless of the routes Forte runs, he has 88 receptions on the year, which is the seventh-most of any player. It is also 12 more receptions than the second running back and 23 more than the third. Basically, the Bears run a huge part of their offense through Forte. He is currently on pace to match the record for receptions by a running back in a season at 101.

For much of the season, that plan sort of worked. Forte put up huge numbers and was the only spark for the Bears' offense. At one point in the season, he was on pace to top 1,000 yards both receiving and rushing -- a feat accomplished by only two other players in NFL history -- but his numbers have fallen off over the past three games.

Whether the fatigue of his heavy workload is wearing him down or teams are just focusing on stopping him, Forte has not topped 100 yards from scrimmage in any of the past three games and only averaged above 4.0 yards per carry once in that span. Notably, in the Bears game in Detroit on Thanksgiving, the Bears did not even make an effort to establish Forte in the running game. He received only five carries on the game for 6 yards while still remaining an active receiver with six receptions.

It is hard to know what to expect this week. On one hand, it would make sense for the Bears to air it out. They face the best running defense in the league, are trying to re-energize their fan base with a new starting quarterback and Marc Trestman is making a last-ditch effort to save his job. On the other hand, their quarterback is now Jimmy Clausen, and he is facing a tough passing defense that specializes in forcing turnovers. If I was the Bears, I would utilize Forte as much as possible this week.

All of this is good news for the Detroit Lions. Their defense should be more than capable of focusing like a laser on Forte and minimizing his impact on the game. By taking away the Bears' rushing attack (again), the game will rest on Jimmy Clausen's arm. I like the Lions' chances.