The circumstances surrounding the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears entering their week 17 matchup could not be more different. The Bears need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive while the Lions need the clock to expire to end their disappointing season.
I caught up with Mike Burzawa, Chicago Bears blogger and editor at Bear Goggles On for a quick Q&A.
1. Is it possible for Lovie Smith to keep his job if the Bears have another late season collapse to finish out of the playoffs?
Mike Burzawa: I sure hope not. It seems like there’s always an excuse for why he should get off the hook. Like many Bears fans, I’m tired of the Lovie Smith experience. If the Bears miss the post-season yet again, they will have missed in 5 of the last 6 seasons with just one postseason win since Super Bowl XLI. That said, if the Bears win on Sunday, regardless of the outcome in Minneapolis, they’ll be a 10 win team. It’s pretty tough to launch a 10-win coach.
My biggest hope is that they have a plan and not fire Lovie just for the sake of firing him. New GM Phil Emery needs to get an offensive mind because that’s where they need the help and that’s where they have the young talent. This Bears team needs to be re-built around Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall.
2. What has been the Bears’ biggest problem in losing five of their last seven games?
MB: Honestly, the biggest difference in the last few weeks has been that the defense stopped scoring. When the Bears were rolling early in the season, their defense was not only shutting other team down, they were actually scoring points.
Part of that is the level of competition went up around Week 9 when they hit a stretch of games against top teams like Houston, San Fran, Seattle and Minnesota. Another factor has been injuries. Jay Cutler was knocked out of the Texans game and missed the 49ers game. Who knows what happens if Cutler is healthy. When he was knocked out, he was leading the NFL in 4th quarter passer rating.
Most of all, the team is banged up and lacks the depth to overcome the injuries. Just when the offensive line was coming together, a rash of injuries hit. Brian Urlacher‘s missed the last few games, along with Pro Bowlers Tim Jennings and Henry Melton.
3. What do the Bears need to do to avoid a let down against the Lions?
MB: The first thing that jumps to mind is to stay focused. It’s easy to lose sight of their game and start worrying about the Packers-Vikings game. The Bears will actually have to root for the Packers to beat the Vikings to get into the post-season, which is painful.
The Bears and Lions know each other pretty well, so there aren’t many surprises out there. The Bears need to slow down Calvin Johnson and pressure Matthew Stafford. On the offensive side, they need to try to get someone other than Brandon Marshall going.
4. What do the Lions need to do to have success against the Bears?
MB: Can they throw together a read-option offense in the next few days? Russell Wilson seemed to baffle a veteran defense with that scheme. Seriously, if the Lions can take Brandon Marshall away, they’ve basically taken half the Bears offense away. For the Lions offensive players, they need only hang onto the ball and avoid turnovers. If they hang onto the ball, they have a chance to win.
5. Give us your prediction for Sunday’s game.
MB: I think the Bears will find a way to get a win. It’s not going to be pretty, but they get a defensive score and a few field goals and of course a Brandon Marshall TD. Bears finish up 10-6 and end another disappointing season for the Lions. Bears 20, Lions 16. Bonus – Calvin Johnson will get the needed 108 yards and become the next CJ2K.