Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 10/20/12
Under the lights of Soldier Field, on the big stage of Monday Night Football, the Detroit Lions have a chance.
It’s more than just a chance to win the game, it’s a chance to prove they belong in the conversation of top NFL teams.
Heading into this week seven Monday night matchup, Detroit has a disappointing record of 2-3.  With back-to-back losses to Tennessee and Minnesota, the Lions desperately needed a win last week in Philadelphia, and they got it.
After playing three poor quarters, the Lions caught fire in the fourth, winning the game 26-23 in overtime.
Looking ahead to this game against Chicago, don’t expect that same magic.
The game will air Monday night at 8:30p.m. on ESPN.
This Bears’ defense is among the best in the league, and simply will not allow Detroit to gain 300 yards in the fourth quarter like the Eagles did.  In short, it will take a complete four quarters for the Lions to bring a victory back to Ford Field.
The Bears are strong in the secondary and strong up front, creating a lethal combination of pass-rush and coverage.  The Bears have forced 17 turnovers and sacked opposing quarterbacks 18 times, both good for top-five in the NFL.
And did I mention that this defense can score?  Yeah, five TDs in their last three games.
The Lions defense hasn’t scored one all year.
The vaunted Chicago defense poses matchup problems all over the field for Detroit.  First and foremost, Lions’ tackle Jeff Backus will get destroyed by Julius Peppers all night if he doesn’t get consistent help.  With Peppers at 6-foot-7, 287 pounds, and Israel Idonije at 6-foot-6, 275 pounds opposite him, Backus and Gosder Cherilus will have their hands full.
The offensive line will have to step up as a unit in order to protect Matthew Stafford and try to give RB Mikel Leshoure some running room.  The Bears’ defense has conceded just 66 rushing yards per game (best in the NFL), while Detroit has rushed for just under 100 yards per game (19th).  Detroit cannot simply abandon the run; if Peppers and Idonije can pin their ears back and rush Stafford without any threat of a running game, look out.
When Stafford does drop back to throw, his receivers will somehow have to find space in a solid Bears’ secondary.  Featuring cornerbacks Charles Tillman and D.J. Moore, Chicago’s secondary poses problems for even the best passing attacks.
Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew, and Nate Burleson will have to lead the Lions’ 2nd-ranked passing offense on touchdown drives, not field-goal drives.
Defensively, Detroit has to contain running back Matt Forte.  Forte is a huge part of the Bears’ offense, and if he is contained, the offense has been known to sputter.  When Forte was limited to 31 rushing yards against Green Bay, Chicago turned the ball over four times and lost 23-10.
Wideout Brandon Marshall also poses a potential threat to the Detroit defense.  At 6-foot-4, Marshall towers over the Detroit secondary, and has hands to go with his size.  Marshall has already caught 35 passes this season, three going for touchdowns.  Lions corner Chris Houston will try to slow Marshall down in one of Monday night’s marquee matchups.
These key matchups are ones to watch throughout the game; the winner of these one-on-one battles will likely win the game.
I’m waiting for the Lions to show some heart.  Detroit hasn’t played like they really want to dominate yet this season.  It will require four full quarters to walk away from Soldier Field with a win, and a much-needed win at that.
But it might take a little grit.
 
Follow me on twitter @ScottPeceny
 
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