The 3-0 Chicago Bears roll into this weekend's match up with the Detroit Lions in sole possession of first place in the NFC North. The Detroit Lions aren't far behind at 2-1, meaning this early season clash has divisional implications. It's certainly nice to see two classic football rivals back on top battling for first place.
In order to properly set the table, Lions 101 chatted with Dan Wiederer, a Bears' writer from the Chicago Tribune, attempting to cross enemy lines and delve further into 2013's rivalry renewed. Wiederer was asked the three biggest questions about this weekend's match up from a Detroit perspective, and provided detailed answers regarding the Bears' recent rejuvenation.
(1) Lions 101: Between losing defensive tackle Henry Melton for the year and dealing with groin concerns of cornerback Charles Tillman, which injury for the Bears is most significant heading into Sunday's game with Detroit?
DW: On the surface, it would seem like the Melton injury is a much bigger deal. After all, losing a Pro Bowl talent for the season at a position with little depth, is a major, major issue for this Bears team. But that's for the entire season. For this week and this week only? Tillman's injury may be more troubling. For three straight weeks, Tillman has been slowed by different ailments. He missed first-half action in Week 1 dealing with dehydration. In Week 2, he suffered a knee injury against Minnesota. In the win over the Steelers, a groin issue surfaced, possibly as a result of compensating for the knee soreness. Not exactly ideal timing heading into a game against Detroit's prolific passing attack and the always dangerous Calvin Johnson. In the Bears' first meeting with the Lions last year, Tillman blanketed and limited Johnson all night. It'd be a nice luxury to have him at full strength . But that's not going to happen. The coaching staff is going to be cautious with its practice plan with Tillman this week. He'll likely be questionable on the injury report. And while he will still try to play , if he needs to come off the field at all, that forces Zack Bowman into a heightened role, including coverage on Johnson — a match-up the Lions will take all day.
Melton's loss will be felt deeper down the road. It's not just his statistical production but the attention he commands up front. His back-up Nate Collins is decent and active. But he doesn't require the double teams that Melton did. Where the Bears go to upgrade their defensive line remains to be seen. What may be seenis just how valuable Tillman is to the secondary.
(2) Lions 101: Marc Trestman seems to have brought tremendous energy and a fresh perspective to Chicago. Where has Trestman's positive impact been felt the most, and how might that help the Bears against the Lions?
DW: Two words: Jay Cutler. Through three games, anyway, Cutler sure seems to be very comfortable and very much at ease in his relationship with Trestman and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh. And that's a very big deal. Cutler has never lacked for self-confidence. But now, under this new regime, he seems to have a greater level of confidence in the coaching staff and the supporting cast in the offense. Credit Trestman for developing a relationship with Cutler early, for minimizing any potential friction in their rapport, for working tirelessly to bring out the strengths of Cutler and the offense.
What's been most impressive has been the patience and intelligence Trestman has used to install game plans each week. Against the Bengals, there was an effort in the first-half not so much to score points but to keep Cutler clean. The Bears wanted an overhauled offensive line to develop chemistry and to protect Cutler in a way that later in the game, he'd feel at ease in the pocket and could open up the playbook more. It happened. And the Bears scored two second-half TDs to rally for an impressive win.
Against Pittsburgh last week, there was worry of the chaos and confusion that Pittsburgh's feisty 3-4 defense could cause. And so the Bears used a rapid-fire attack of short passes to open the game, putting together a 7-minute scoring drive to take the lead for good right out of the gates.
Trestman has full buy-in from all his players, respect that his understanding of offensive principles is at an elite level. And with the balance he's brought to the offense, the momentum is just now starting to build.
(3) Lions 101: Jim Schwartz didn't want to call Sunday's match up a "big game" during his press conference Monday, but in looking at the standings, it's clearly meaningful given the troubles of the Vikings and Packers. For the long run in 2013, is it more important for the Lions or Bears to win this game?
DW: Division games are very important. At all times. And yes, while Green Bay is 1-2, the Packers started 2-3 last year and still won the division. That's why it's important for both these teams to try to create separation in the division as much as they can, as early as possible. The Vikings are done. Playoff hopes dashed. So now it's a three-horse race for the division crown. And with first place on the line at Ford Field, the Bears and Lions face a golden opportunity.
Ultimately, a Bears win might be more significant given that division road wins are so hard to come by. It would also give them a 2-0 record in the NFC North (which the Lions have a chance to pull off as well).
Your man cave is your home field advantage for every game. When the game is on the line, you should be able to look around and be reminded of the great moments you've watched unfold in that very room! MJR Sports Integrity offers a wide range or team and player-specific memorabilia that can do just that and take your game day room to the next level. Find your inspiration at MJR Sports Integrity and will your team to victory!
- Scouting the Opposition: Chicago Bears Finally Getting Production from Jay Cutler, Passing Game
- Offensive Balance, not Penalties, are the Biggest Problem Detroit Lions Will Face in 2013
- The Top 10 Detroit Lions’ Turning Points in 2012, Number 10: Third Quarter Fumble Dooms Detroit
- Detroit Lions’ Defensive End Israel Idonije: Lineup, Chance to Win Title Made Detroit Perfect Fit
- How the Detroit Lions Rate: Rounding up Week One’s NFL Power Rankings
Short URL: http://sport-ne.ws/11er