The Chicago Bears look to improve to 5-1 as the Detroit Lions come to Soldier Field for a Monday night showdown. SB Nation Chicago discusses the game and offers a few predictions.
Jon Gruden's unimpeded enthusiasm usually operates a notch or two above normal human capacity, but it's a safe bet those inside Soldier Field on Monday night will be able to channel a good portion of the announcer's unparalleled excitement. It's been 26 seasons since the Bears last won the Super Bowl, and Chicago is starving for another. As the Lions come to town for a pivotal Week 7 showdown, there's a developing sense that this is the closest the Bears have been since their run of dominance in the '80s.
This isn't as much a litmus test of the Bears' true worth as it a gauge of their resolve. The Bears are rolling and have their eyes locked on a 7-1 start. Anything less will qualify as a disappointment. Which is to say: the Bears have no excuse to lose this game. If Chicago really is the best team in the NFL, they'll prove it by rightfully discarding an inferior squad on their home turf under the warming glow of a national audience. This doesn't inherently feel like a statement game, but it can turn into one if the Bears deliver another powerful performance.
The NFL has been firmly entrenched in the parity era for long enough to ensure nothing is ever as easy as it seems, and it would be decidedly Bears-like to lay an egg in front of the entire world. Hell, they did it in Week 2. But with excitement swirling and opportunity knocking, I'd like to think these Bears won't be privy to falling victim to the same proximity mines that tripped up the teams that came before them. This outfit is talented and healthy and is getting closer to operating on all cylinders. The Bears are showing signs that perhaps all of the preseason Super Bowl hype wasn't so ridiculous. Their case will be built one impressive victory at a time, and there's time like the present to keep the momentum rolling.
Prediction: Bears in a walk.
Even when the Bears are playing well and have all the momentum in the world, they still make you uneasy.
The 2006 Bears went 13-3 en route to a Super Bowl, but they're still a team that featured a QB controversy, a starter who posted a QB rating of zero in Week 17, and an offense so shaky, you couldn't help but wait for the other shoe to drop. Spoiler alert: it did.
When the Bears traded for Jay Cutler, Chicago won the off-season, changed the entire culture of the team, and gave fans a tangible hope that never before existed. The franchise savior went on to throw 4 INTs in his Week 1 debut, and, in a way, expectations were tapered forever. Sure, we let our guards down when the Bears hosted the NFC Championship game a season later, but that proved disastrous (goodbye, knee!). Last year's team was one of the hottest in the NFL until another injury (hello, thumb!) threw a wrench in the gears.
But every season is a new slate. And this one saw the Bears burst out of the gates with a route over the Colts only to crash and burn less than a week later on Thursday Night Football in Green Bay. Cutler melted down -- the sky was falling, yet again.
But a three-game win streak later (and that makes it sound modest; blowout streak is more accurate), the Bears are back in the pole position. They waxed the Cowboys on the road on Monday Night Football, lead the NFC North, and are even being called the best team in the NFL by one prominent writer.
This is, typically, when everything falls apart.
So that's why this Monday is important. I'm not even going to call it a test, because, at this point, I think the Bears are simply better than that. This is a superior team hosting a structurally unsound division opponent at home under the lights. There's a reason Chicago is favored by 6.5 in Vegas.
So yeah: it's time to close the door on the middle-to-upper tier and embrace being truly elite. It's finally, finally, finally the Bears' time.
You're *still* nervous? Well, I understand.
Steve von Horn
I feel stupid trying to break down this matchup. I don't want to believe in all the good things the Bears have going for them, but only because they don't feel real enough to me.
Chicago is 8-2 on Monday Night Football during Lovie Smith's tenure, yet I've still got their latest MNF win on my DVR -- a wholly satisfying 34-18 beat down of Tony Romo
and the Dallas Cowboys
on Oct. 1 -- because I'm (wrongly) convinced prime time Bears games have been filled with doom and gloom.
I still chuckle thinking about fans who advanced the "Jay Cutler has diabetes-based night blindness" theory a couple years ago, but at the same time I have the impression that jerk face hasn't been good under the lights.
Of course, he's actually better on Monday nights than he is on Sundays (or Thursdays) over the course of his career. Cutler is 7-4 on MNF, and he has completed 62.5 percent of his passes while throwing for 2,507 yards,19 TDs and just seven INTs (97.9 QB Rating).
Then we toss in the Lions factor. Cutler is even better against the Lions than he is on his best day (Mondays). Jay is 5-2 against the Lions, and has produced a 105.0 QB Rating -- he's completed 66.7 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,1415 yards, 10 TDs and just one INT.
Chicago is also 5-1 coming off the Bye week under Lovie Smith since 2006, so...yeah.
I can cite those facts, but I can't properly digest them. Let's just say I'm not going to delete the Week 4 win vs. the Cowboys before kickoff on Monday.
Prediction: Bears make me look like an idiot, and I thoroughly enjoy the experience.
Bonus predictions: Jim Schwartz will act like an asshat on the sidelines, regardless of the outcome.
Now, look at this:
Just LOOK at it. Gaze into the weirdness of it. The mystery. The obscurity. Compare that to the pre-season expectations. Does it add up? Well, it shouldn't.
Detroit just isn't that good outside of the names you know. That seemingly crazy 6.5 point spread actually feels pretty accurate, maybe even not enough. Being at home, I'm feeling confident the Bears will put together a solid victory without much of a contest.
Xanax Threat Level: 1/8th a bar
My favorite thing about Bears - Lions as a kid was that the mascots were actually a good matchup. Bears. Lions. Big roars. Swipey claws. It's the X-men showdown of nature. Also, nothing takes the fun out of childhood like trying to imagine how a group of ferocious bears would do against a field of oil derricks or a fleet of jets. Any team without a believable fighting mascot should be exempt from winning the championship, I say. Looking in your direction, packers of meat.
Warning: the Lions don't suck as much as they have through the season's first six weeks. Being one-dimensional on offense and average on defense will get you to 2-3, but they have Mikel Leshoure
back now and are showing signs of life after beating the Smeagles last week. There's some momentum there.
The Bears get Earl Bennett
back but lose Alshon Jeffery
, apparently because Chicago wide receivers are only allowed to have one hand owie at a time. That means less dominance on the outside and in the red zone but much better on underneath routes and in the possession game. I'd argue the offense needed more of the latter anyways. Also, Forte is apparently back to full strength, and the game is at Soldier Field. There's a lot to like, which, if you're a Bears fan, is mildly terrifying.
Here's weird Bears prediction logic for you: If this were a noon start on a Sunday, I'd be quite worried. But a primetime game on a Monday night at home? Oddly confident. Don't try to figure that out, for it is devoid of logic. And although the Bears can "afford" to have a stinker, this is actually a big game in that it's a huge opportunity to KO a division rival early in the season. Plus, Bears are a lot bigger than Lions and can stand on their hind legs. There's a food chain at stake here.
Only four seasons removed from 0-16, looking up in the division standings shouldn't be too foreign a concept for the Lions. It just feels that way for a team expected to improve on last year's playoff berth. The Lions are probably not as mediocre as their 2-3 record suggests, yet still a far cry from the dark horse Super Bowl contender many people pegged them as to begin the season. The solution seems simple: stop waiting until the fourth quarter to score points. Putting all the difficult stuff aside for the last fifteen minutes is a standardized test taking strategy -- effective when you can refocus and approach a question from a different angle -- disastrous when the sheer amount of pressure causes you to overcompensate and break the tip of your only no. 2 pencil.
The key to this game, as usual, is Calvin Johnson. He's continued to rack up receiving yardage at a ridiculous rate (111.6 ypg), but curiously has only scored one touchdown on the year. This is Megatron we're talking about, a man capable of correcting any stat line incongruities in a single game. He's going to get his catches and his yards. Whether or not he gets his touchdowns could very well decide this game. It doesn't seem like it, especially if last year's 5-catch, 130-yard, one touchdown MNF performance is still burned into your memory, but the Bears have done as good a job as any team containing Megatron. "Containing Megatron," of course, is a career day for 95 percent of the league's receiving corps.
Let's see how the Bears' offense responds to facing a fearsome defensive line, i.e. not Jacksonville. I'd like to see the offense have to win a game before the Texans
visit Soldier Field in three weeks.
Prediction: Entirely too many interceptions, dumb penalties, and Kid Rock references. Bears 20, Lions 17
Call me crazy but I think the Lions might "shock the world" (or at least the corner of the globe along the southwest corner of Lake Michigan dubbed Chicagoland) and handle business tonight at Soldier Field. Why would I make this determination? Huffin' too much gas? Distaste for the Bears and their fans that borders on the masochistic? Obtuse and contrarian jerk? All of the above? Let's face it, the Lions are in desperate straits; following their breakout season last year (when you make the playoffs for the first time > 10 years, a wildcard demolition at the hands of the Saints still counts as a breakout) the Lions have struggled mightily out of the 2K12 gates with a three-game losing streak already in the books, Detroit needs this win. Now, wants/needs have nothing to do with the cold reality and the merciless grind of Fortune, but the Bears haven't yet faced an offense (save for Green Bay's) with the playmakers that Detroit has on paper. Matt Stafford is finally showing some signs of competency, in addition to the numbers he's put up thus far by sheer volume. Toss in the fact that Mikel LeShoure is rounding into form as a backfield threat and a shifty receiver in the flats that will force the Bears' linebackers to focus on something aside from just stopping the run. And, oh, by the way!, Detroit still has the most game-changing receiver on the planet in the form of Calvin Johnson. Mind you, if the Bears can jam the other receivers (Msrs. Burleson and Young), Megatron's gonna be hard pressed to find a lot of opportunities, but if there's a wideout to never bet against it is Calvin Johnson.
For the Bears? The onus is, as it is every week, on the offense to prove that they can win a game on their own. Behind the front four of Detroit's defense, there's not much to concern oneself with, but this is the Bears and their offensive line is still a bad play or two away from breaking and kicking in the Jay Cutler Meltdown Positive Feedback Loop. Detroit's front four can make that happen and that could be the crux. Keep Cutler's jersey clean, keep his head clear, keep the ball moving by any means necessary.
Still, the Lions have Seattle up next week and a loss tonight to a divisional rival means their season could already be ruined. My call is that desperation rules the day and the Lions pull a needed win out of the wild and woolly Windy City to keep their playoff dreams and season's hopes alive for another week.
Tonight, the San Francisco Giants
and St. Louis Cardinals
battle for the right to face the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. If I had to guess, the television viewing numbers in Detroit for this game will pale next to the Monday Night Football contest between the dominant Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions. And, for the life of me, I can't imagine why.
Yes, part of it is that the World Series matchup is on the line. However, I simply cannot get excited for a Bears-Lions game. It's like getting worked up about going to the gym. I go twice a year and it's dull and I can wait to go back, but I have to go to justify my membership.
There's a video on ESPN's Detroit Lions home page right now of Matthew Stafford
talking up the "Lions-Bears rivalry
". Just stop it. Even Matt's wearing a Tigers cap with his dress shirt and suit jacket. I know ESPN's merely making sure no one even considers missing their Constitutionally
required dose of "This Week in Monday Night Football History" commentary, but let's pull back a bit on "rivalry".
Green Bay and Chicago. It's been great that the Packers
and Bears have played highly competent football so far this season. That's a rivalry; one of the few legitimate ones in sports. I'm excited to see those games this season. The Bears and Lions have mutually agreed to attend the same sporting events occasionally. That's contractual obligation, not a rivalry.
And this isn't Detroit hatred. I've vacationed in Detroit multiple times. On purpose. You can't make me care about the Lions, though, as a Bears fan. (I mean, except that I've often had to use the Ford Field parking lot for a Bears game in Soldier Field.)
The good news for Detroit fans is that the Bears will give MNF viewers plenty of reason to flip over to baseball by the third quarter. Then Detroit can return its focus to the other professional sports team with huge guys on the line. Me, I'm rooting for Prince Fielder because we have the same workout regimen.