Dean Holden – The Lions and Bears will battle this week for an early lead in the NFC North, but more importantly, to prove they are legitimately good teams. These teams have a 5-1 record between them, but they’ve pulled it against teams with a combined 3-15 record, and aside from the Bears’ dismantling of the Steelers last Monday, none of those victories have been particularly convincing. After this one, the winner should earn a semblance of legitimacy. This game looks extremely evenly matched, but the Lions should get a lift with the (presumed) return of Reggie Bush. That should help take some pressure off of Calvin Johnson, who is always intensely pressured against the Bears.
That said, the biggest key to this game is the Bears’ opportunistic defense, which tends to be a more effective offense than the actual Bears offense. Just when it looks like the Bears are slipping, the defense comes up with a turnover or score. If I’m Scott Linehan, I’m spending the entire week thinking about how to keep the Bears from forcing turnovers. If they can keep the ball out of the hands of the Bears’ defense and in the unsure hands of Jay Cutler, they have a very good shot at this one. Just don’t expect it to be pretty. It never is with the Bears.
Prediction: Lions 27, Bears 22
Justin Simon – The Lions are coming off a tough road win in Washington where they had won in decades, and that was without the help of Reggie Bush. I think the Lions get off to a fast start this week and Bush will be a key component of that. The Bears defense has yet to face a team with a running back as dynamic as Bush is out of the backfield. Look for the Lions to try and slow down the Bears newfound love of the blitz with a heavy dose of screen plays.
This is a highly winnable game as the Lions look to climb toward the top of the division. The only way I see the Bears winning is if the Lions self destruct. That includes turnovers, penalties, and non-offensive scores for the Bears. Opposing teams have been making it very easy for the Bears to stay in games this season by allowing them to convert turnovers into touchdowns — that can’t happen to the Lions on Sunday.
The biggest matchup of on Sunday may be between Ndamukong Suh and rookie Kyle Long. And here’s an interesting stat for you to chew on: according to Pro Football Focus, even though the Bears offensive line has given up fewer sacks this season, their total pressures haven’t declined at all. They are actually worse as a unit than they were last year. Look for the Lions to covert some of those pressures into sacks on Sunday. Lions 24, Bears 14