The game you circled on your calendar back when the schedule was released is finally here! The Lions’ first appearance on Monday Night Football in a decade is the most talked about game yet this year but there is no way of knowing how it will turn out. Here are five things to watch that could have a big impact on the direction this game takes:
1. The Ford Field Faithful
The Lions’ 4-0 start has been great but fans have mostly had to watch it on television due to the road-heavy schedule. The city’s first Monday Night Football game in a decade was going to be reason enough to turn tonight into a big party but this will be just the second chance for the home crowd to show their appreciation to the team. I can’t help but think this game represents a big pay off for fans that have invested so much and received so little in return. The crowd will be large and loud and the team is likely to respond in a big way.
2. Come Home Having Learned from the Homecoming
Speaking of that amped up environment, Matthew Stafford was a little too charged up out of the gate for his Dallas homecoming. That experience may help him cope with the atmosphere this evening. A sharp Stafford from the beginning will spell big trouble for the Bears, especially if he is hooking up with Calvin Johnson. CJ has played bigger roles in the past two second halves than first halves.
3. Disruptive Defensive Line
The Lions defensive line gained notoriety last season because of the frequency with which they got to opposing quarterbacks. The sack totals haven’t been there this year like they were last year, but they are still causing some havoc and that is leading to turnovers. The Lions are +8 in turnover margin through four games, a big reason they are 4-0. This week represents an opportunity to keep forcing turnovers while adding to the sack total. Jay Cutler has been sacked 15 times through four games compared to Stafford’s five. Whether by causing turnovers or sacking Cutler, the disruption caused by the Lions defensive line will help tell the story of this game.
4. Return Game
Chicago Bears return-man Devin Hester needs no introduction. He’s the league’s all-time leader in return touchdowns and is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball. He is a big wild card for an underdog like the Bears. A few big returns can negate a whole host of problems by making a game much closer than it otherwise might. On the other side, Stefan Logan has some big play ability of his own although he hasn’t had many opportunities so far this year. Can Hester keep the Bears in it? Can Logan turn a close game into a rout? Both are definite possibilities, if either team chooses to kick the ball in a manner that allows for a return.
5. Calvin Johnson
Watch him for the simple reason that he does amazing things on a weekly basis. How about two more touchdown grabs tonight? I’ll take it.