Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz is usually unwilling to place particular importance on a regular season game. But even he knows this one is bigger than your average game.
If the Lions beat the Chicago Bears this weekend, they not only take control of the NFC North race in terms of record, but they sweep the season series against the Bears, and take a 3-1 division record. The top of the division is exceptionally competitive, so a tiebreaker like this basically counts as 1.5 wins over the Bears.
Here in the second half of the season, tiebreakers are going to become increasingly important. The winner of this game will occupy the driver’s seat in the division race, and will most likely turn their attention towards Green Bay going forward.
But who gets to do that? Let’s have a look at the rankings.
Detroit Lions’ NFL Rankings
In case you forgot about the new chart layout: A team logo indicates which team is projected to “win the matchup” based on NFL rankings. Also, penalty rankings are based on the number of penalties taken, not the yardage charged.
The Lions played a strong game against Dallas statistically. If not for the Lions’ -4 turnover ratio, it would have been a total blowout. Nowhere did they improve more than in run defense, as they went from one of the worst run defenses in the league to the top 15 in just one game.
Of course, the Cowboys have one of the worst rushing offenses in the league. The Bears have Matt Forte and a decently rebuilt offensive line. Things aren’t going to be as easy as last week.
What might surprise you about the 2013 edition of the Chicago Bears is that they’re sporting an atrociously bad defense, with bottom 10 rankings in every area. It might also surprise you to find that they’re second to only Denver is scoring.
All this point to one simple truth: The Lions should have this game under control if they can limit turnovers. The Bears score most of their points as a direct result of turnovers, so if the Lions can keep the ball out of the hands of the Bears defense, they should be able to outscore the Bears’ offense, Jay Cutler or no.
Lions Fantasy Corner
Kris Durham continues to prove himself as a reliable target, and that 40-yard sideline catch in clutch time against Dallas is only going to make Matthew Stafford look his way with more confidence. He’s a legitimate No. 2 option in Detroit until Nate Burleson returns to health.
Both Joseph Fauria and Brandon Pettigrew have been intermittent parts of the Lions’ offense at best. Both of them are threats to fall completely off the fantasy radar at any moment, but at least Fauria is a red zone target. Or at least he was. He wasn’t in the Lions’ red zone package at all against Dallas. He also had an atrocious game run blocking. Coincidence?
Sleeper Pick for Week 10
With Ryan Broyles out for the year, and Nate Burleson not looking ready to return just yet, Kevin Ogletree might see an increase in targets. He has played well to this point, and a bye week should do wonders in terms of getting him more integrated in the offense. Scratching out one of the guys ahead of him on the depth chart also helps.
I covered Calvin Johnson’s insane day already, because it was so epic it deserved individual attention. So let’s talk about some other things here, like what it means for Cutler to start for the Bears this week instead of Josh McCown.
36 – Roughly, points per game scored since Cutler was injured (there’s admittedly some extrapolation involved here)
30 – Points per game scored by the Bears on average this season
7.4 - Yards per attempt on Cutler passes
7.8 – Yards per attempt on McCown passes
12-7 - Cutler’s TD-INT ratio in 2013
3-0 - McCown’s TD-INT ratio in 2013
4 - Turnovers by Cutler vs. Detroit in Week 4
0 - Turnovers by McCown in 2013
92 – Rushing yards in 2013 by Cutler, the Bears’ second-leading rusher (5.1 yards per carry)
53 - Rushing yards in 2013 by McCown, the Bears’ fifth-leading rusher (10.6 yards per carry)