The Detroit Lions hope that they won't need fourth quarter heroics to win two in a row and narrow the gap between themselves and the division-leading Chicago Bears. They could be hoping in vain.
Weather: Low 60s with a chance of isolated thunderstorms. Watch out for lightning.
Detroit -- DT Corey Williams is questionable. DE Cliff Avril and star safety Louis Delmas are probable, but unfortunately CB Bill Bentley is still doubtful and CB Jacob Lacey is out. Please note that in all of these instances, the player is on the defensive side of the pigskin. Watch to see whom Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice chooses to test.
Chicago -- When your team is facing a suspect Lions special teams squad, the last person you want hurt is Devin Hester. Hester has a quadriceps injury, but is probable. Stay tuned. Promising rookie WR Alshon Jeffrey is out.
Keys to the Game:
Lions offense -- Matthew Stafford is not having a banner year. The Lions barely prevailed in Week 6 and struggled again for most of Sunday. For the first three quarters of their last game, Matthew Stafford was 1-of-5 for 28 yards and an interception on throws aimed more than 15 yards downfield. Then he turned it on in the fourth quarter. Again. Is he channeling Tim Tebow? No. 9 finished with 311 yards passing, a TD passing, a TD rushing and one interception.
Although Calvin Johnson has yet to catch a TD pass from Stafford, the all-Pro wideout ended the day with six receptions for 135 yards. The tight ends caught six passes in this rally, which is significant because they have not been much of a receiving threat in 2012.
More importantly, there was a running back sighting in Detroit. In fact, there were two. Mikel Leshoure managed 70 yards on 15 carries and Joique Bell joined the party for 38 rushing yards of his own. If Detroit can keep that up, life should get easier for Stafford and all of the WRs. Despite being somewhat scoring-challenged, the Lions possess the second passing offense in the league. No excuses then.
And of course, 42-year-old Jason Hanson continues to be a machine in the kicking game. Hanson admitted to being nervous before nailing the game-winner. Awww -- that's sweet. Who knew he even had nerves?
Reinvented return man Stefan Logan pitched in with 98 yards of his own. Now, if they can just keep Devin Hester from scoring on returns...
Lions defense -- One would credit the Silver and Blue D with two interceptions and a fumble recovery - -except that they were playing the Eagles (Yeah, and Juan Castillo was the person Philly fired.) The return of Delmas had an expected elevating effect that went beyond his interception. The Lions secondary had not picked off an opposing quarterback this season. Jay Cutler, take note.
Bears offense -- With both Matt Forte and Michael Bush, the Bears should rank much higher in rushing than tenth. The key to this game will be whether or not these running backs can get it in gear and grind out some yards and clock time.
Likewise, Jay Cutler's passing attack should be better than 23rd in the NFL, but there are still protection and dropped-ball issues.
Chicago is coming off a bye and a drubbing of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The only legitimately contending team the Bears have beaten is Dallas. Against the Cowboys, Cutler went 18-of-24 for 275 yards and two scores. The Bears rushed 25 times for 93 yards. If they can have success with this offensive structure, Chicago will win. If they abandon the run, it's a toss-up.
Bears defense -- Yes, we know they're old. They're also the top-ranked run D in the NFL. Both passing defenses are hovering in the middle of the pack. However, the Bears lead the NFL with 13 interceptions. That is a statistic that may well have some bearing on this game.
Viewing note -- The Lions had 16 penalties last week. Of course they did. Let's not forget that the last time these teams played resulted in a bench-clearing brawl.
Straight Up: Bears
Against the Spread: Bears -6.5 (Do not go over this; remember the strength of schedule -- or lack thereof.)
"Success isn't permanent and failure isn't fatal."
- Mike Ditka
No, it just feels that way.
*Statistics from usatoday.com, espn.com, NFL Network's Gameday Final and ESPN's NFL Primetime, cbssports.com
Injury information from cbssports.com
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