Neil Harvey previews the first of two live NFL games on Sky Sports on Sunday evening, and in this encounter he expects the Lions to get the better of the Bears in a high-scoring football game...
"I fancy we could see history repeat itself, with Detroit breaking-out into a big lead early-on, in what should prove another high-scoring treat for the fans."
Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears
Start Time: Sunday, 18:00
TV: Live on Sky Sports 2
Both teams are tantalisingly poised at (5-3) in the NFC North. But with fellow divisional rivals Green Bay, who are also (5-3), now reeling from the loss of QB Aaron Rodgers, this could be the perfect time for the Lions or the Bears to break away from the pack and make a bid for the divisional title.
For the Lions, their hopes of victory would appear to lie in the hands of quaterback Matthew Stafford. His unexpected one yard sneak for the game-winning score against Dallas showed just how much responsibility he carries upon those broad shoulders of his. Stafford is averaging two TDs and almost 300 yards per game, in a Detroit offence where the passing game has produced the bulk of the touchdowns.
Stafford and wide-receiver Calvin Johnson form one of the most devastating partnerships in pro-football. Everyone knows, that at some point in the game, Stafford will take a big shot downfield, looking for the JCB-like claws of Megatron. Absolutely every team they play, knows it's coming, and yet few are able to stop it. Just ask the Cowboys, who could only stand and watch as Johnson plucked everything from the sky, regardless of the number of defensive players around him, en route to a staggering 329 yards receiving.
Trying to stop the Stafford-Johnson hook-up is going to be Chicago's biggest challenge of the game, and in all honesty, I don't think they're up to the job.
The Lions rank second in the league for passing, and have already put big numbers on the board against the highly-ranked pass-defences of Cleveland and Cincinnati. By comparison, not only do Chicago rate just 22nd at stopping the pass, but worryingly for them, nobody in the entire league gives up more yards per pass, with the Bears conceding eight yards every time their opponents successfully throw the ball. All this points towards another monster day for the Detroit offense.
Reading this should come as little surprise to many of you though. After all, it already happened once this season, when the Lions beat the Bears 40-32 back in Week Four. On that occasion, it was running back back Reggie Bush who terrorised the Bears, with 139 yards rushing.
Yes, the Bears are even worse at stopping the run than they are at dealing with the pass. Conceding more than 120 yards on average, they rank a woeful 29th in the league for run-defence. And in all honesty they must be contenders for the title of worst defence in the entire NFL.
The reason Chicago have a winning record is because, much like Detroit, they have a high-octane offense. Their wide-receiver combination of Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall is as good as it gets, and in Matt Forte they have an experienced running back who's also comfortable at catching the ball in the backfield.
Whether Chicago's offense stands or falls though, is all dependant on the performance of their mercurial QB Jay Cutler.
When Cutler's on song, the Bears win. But he does have a propensity for throwing interceptions. This season alone, for every two TDs he's thrown, he's also gifted one possession to the opposition. Compare that to Matthew Stafford's three TDs for every pick. Cutler showed in that Week Four game exactly what he's about, as he mixed-up 317 yards and two TDs, with three interceptions and a fumble to boot, thus showing-off his full reportoire of dubious talents.
The Bears, boosted by home advantage, could theoretically close the gap from their previous eight point defeat to the Lions. But, it's worth noting that Detroit led 40-16 going into the final quarter of that game, only to happily give up lots of points in garbage time.
Detroit's superiority on the day was much bigger than the score suggests. Throw in injuries to the Bears' defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins, plus the loss of linebacker Lance Briggs, and suddenly Chicago's task looks much bigger. And let's not forget that QB Cutler is playing his first game back from a groin tear. Reports that he was moving 'gingerly' in practice do nothing to inspire me he'll be at the top of his game.
So while they might not be in their den, it's the Lions who look the more dangerous, and I fancy we could see history repeat itself, with Detroit breaking-out into a big lead early-on, in what should prove another high-scoring treat for the fans.
Detroit to win @ 2.0421/20
Detroit to win first half @ 2.111/10 or better
Detroit points over 27.5 @ Evens (Sportsbook)
Detroit (-7) to win @ 5/2 (Sportsbook)
Total points over 51.5 @ 4/5 (Sportsbook)