DETROIT LIONS (6-2) at CHICAGO BEARS (5-3)
Sunday, 4:15 P.M. ET, FOX, Direct TV (711) Sirius (Det 94, Chi 92)
Chicago barged into the playoff discussion with a win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Now they face everybody’s darling team, the Detroit Lions. The Bears are the defending division champion. The Green Bay Packers are the defending Super Bowl champion. The Lions are a defensive juggernaut. Lions and Packers and Bears, oh my! The NFC North is the toughest division in football.
When the sole unbeaten NFL team is in your division, it is never too early to do the math for the division title. For the Lions, the magic number is seven. Any combination of Detroit losses and Green Bay wins that equals six, clinches the division for the Packers. Detroit has two games against the Pack. Sweeping Green Bay would be a four-game swing in the division chase.
Chicago is a game down. Thus, their magic number is eight—used in a sentence: the Bears must win all eight remaining games and hope somebody else beats the Packers for Chicago to clinch the title.
Playoff projections are best left to out-of-shape sportswriters (like me). Players have to play the game. The biggest obstacles to the post-season for the Lions and Bears on Sunday afternoon are each other. Oh my!
What To Watch
Watch Ndamukong Suh—or, as I like to call him: Ndamu “Can Do.” Suh is the NFL’s dominant defensive player; not just the dominant defensive lineman, but the dominant player at any defensive position. No one mentions the name Albert Haynesworth in that light since Suh entered the league last season. That might be true even if Albert had not kneecapped his career.
Suh was rampant in his rookie season. He draws extra attention by opposing offenses to create opportunities for other Lions defenders to make stops. No Lions player has taken better advantage of that than Chris Houston, Detroit’s leading cornerback. Houston has some showy stats to show for his efforts, 4 INTs, 10 passes defended and a 100-yard pick-six of Tim Tebow.
The next level development for Suh is to beat double teams and clog the running lanes, as the Bears’ offense keys off of the run. Matt Forte drew comparisons to the great Walter Peyton for his performance against Philadelphia last week. The return of Earl Bennett is a godsend to Bears’ QB Jay Cutler. Chicago’s receiving corps has been less than stellar in his absence, even if rookie Dane Sanzenbacher might develop into the next Wes Welker by this time next season. Best of all for Chicago, the Eagles’ high-profile defenders could not bring Jay Cutler to ground. All of this sets-up nicely for the rematch the Bears looked forward to since their 27-13 loss to the Lions last month. Chicago is favored by 3.
Who Will Win
Detroit is better than Chicago at every position except running back and arguably quarterback. Lions rusher Javid Best is OUT. The Lions are off of a Bye and could come into the game cold. Bye weeks have not been kind to teams this season. The Lions know the task ahead of them, which is not to ruin your Thanksgiving TV viewing by losing to the Bears or Panthers ahead of their showcase game with the Pack. The Bears are tougher now than they were in the season’s first half. But, I am going with what the numbers suggest and picking the mighty Lions.