It's deja-vu all over again for the Detroit Lions, who face off against the Chicago Bears in a highly anticipated Monday Night Football battle in October once more. For Chicago, last year's prime time game in Detroit was ugly from the start, and the Bears fell to the Lions on the road. This time around, they'll be looking for some swift payback at home in the week's final game.
The Bears enter this contest rolling at 4-1, and have been putting up some excellent offensive and defensive numbers thus far. The Lions saved their season (for now) with Sunday's big overtime win in Philadelphia. Now, this match up has become a bit more intriguing as two NFC North bruisers try to position themselves in the division. But what do the Bears do best?
Bears' Offensive Difference Maker: Matt Forte. Obviously, Forte is the man who drives Chicago's offense. If Forte is running well, opposing defenses will have a difficult time getting into enough of a rhythm to pressure Jay Cutler and shut down the passing attack. Chicago also does a great job of using Forte out of the backfield with major screen passes. Though he hasn't gotten off to a fast start in 2012, Forte's best game did come against Jacksonville, so he could finally be finding his stride. The Lions must play good team defense at the line and tackle well to stop Forte, much like they did with LeSean McCoy. Career, he's got seven touchdowns and 678 rushing yards against the Lions, so you might say that burning them has been his "forte."
Bears' Defensive Difference Maker: Lance Briggs. It would be easy to go with Brian Urlacher here, the heart and soul of the Bears defense, but Briggs seems to reserve his best play for Detroit for whatever reason. Not only that, Briggs has been one of the best defenders in the NFL early this year. He's a tackling machine with 29 already in 2012, forces plenty of fumbles and is agile enough to grab big interceptions. Briggs already has two picks this year, both of which have gone for touchdowns. Matthew Stafford is going to need to watch out for Briggs over the middle of the field if he wants to keep the offense moving Monday night.
Bears' Major Problem: Protection. Just like in 2011, the Bears do often struggle to protect Cutler when he's in the pocket, and it's been a problem for them. The team hasn't run the ball particularly well this year either, and the Lions' defensive linemen are coming off their most impassioned effort against a decent Philadelphia Eagle offense. Last year, the Bears line held up decently against Detroit in Chicago. The Bears have already given up 14 sacks this season, which places them near the bottom of the league statistically in protection at 23rd. The offensive linemen will need to have their best effort of the year against a Lions' defensive line that might be coming together at the right time.
Bears' Major Strength: Run defense. This week, the Lions will be going up against the best run defense in the NFL, as Chicago ranks first across the board here. This match up is interesting, considering the Lions put up a solid 130 yards on the ground last Sunday against the Eagles. Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell might not find it as easy to operate against the Bears front, so the Lions will have to be creative with shorter passes to move the ball down field against a very stout defensive front.
Biggest Intangible: Monday Night Football. Last season, the Lions didn't look intimidated by the big moment and shined brightly with the lights of the world on them. This year's bunch hasn't gotten off to a hot start, so will they be more overwhelmed by playing with a nation watching? Typically, Detroit doesn't play well in Chicago any time, so can they during a highly anticipated national affair? If so, that might serve as major fuel to propel this team forward in 2012.
Max DeMara is the managing editor of Lions 101. You can find him on his personal Twitter account @SportsGuyTheMax or on this site's Twitter @detroitlions101
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