How much difference can 6 days make in the fortunes of an NFL team?
Heading into last Monday night, Bears fans were jumping off the bandwagon faster than rats deserting a sinking ship.
Aaron Rodgers goes down, and the Bears pull off a shocking upset. And now, the Bears, Packers and Lions find themselves in a three-way dead heat atop the NFC North, all three at 5-3.
Now if the Bears can knock off the Lions, they will find themselves with a firm grip on the division with seven games to play and with hopes of getting healthier. They also added reinforcements in the form of Jay Ratliff for defensive line.
The buzz is all around that Jay Cutler is coming back early, not from Dr. Brandon Marshall this time, but from ESPN.
Marc Trestman has said the doctors will decide, not the four letter network or Cutler. Besides, after watching Josh McCown vs. the Packers, what’s the hurry?
Charles Tillman is the key to the Bears beating the Detroit Lions.
Certainly, the Bears will have to find a way to deal with Reggie Bush, who torched them in their week four meeting in Detroit. And whoever plays quarterback will have to be a lot better than Cutler was in the first half last time.
But at the end of the day, nobody plays Calvin “Megatron” Johnson as effectively as Tillman, and he is going to have to do it again.
Detroit will be coming off a bye, and Megaton’s most recent muscle memories will be of having put up the second best receiving day in NFL history in their last-second, miraculous victory over the Cowboys.
As well as McCown played against the Packers – and I still believe it should be and will be him against Detroit – he’s not ready to get into a shootout with Johnson and Matt Stafford.
Stafford is on pace to throw for more than 5,200 yards this season, with 2,617 in his first eight games, 16 touchdowns, 6 interceptions and a 94.6 passer rating.
The Lions offensive line is doing a great job of protecting him, allowing just 10 sacks the first half of the season.
Bears fans can take solace in the fact the Bears sacked Aaron Rodgers and Seneca Wallace five times on Monday night, after managing just nine sacks in their first seven games.
But let’s be honest – the five Packer sacks included just four quarterback hits. The Rodgers sack was after Shea McClellin had been blocked out of the play and Rodgers ran back to him, and all but the Corey Wootton sack were coverage sacks.
The Lions are third in total offense, sixth in average gain per offensive play, first in percentage of quarterback sacks allowed, fifth in time of possession, and sixth in points per game. They will pose a much stiffer test for the Bears defense than the Wallace-led Packers did.
The matchup between the Bears offense and the Lions defense should be kinder to the Bears.
Matt Forte had his best game of the year in Green Bay with 24 carries and 125 yards rushing, a 5.2 average, and one touchdown, and five catches for 54 yards. The Lions might not have an answer.
Detroit’s defense is porous, ranking 25th overall, 30th in average gain per play allowed, 28th vs. the run, 30th sacking the quarterback, and 18th in points allowed.
The one category they are very good in is third down efficiency, where they’re second, but that’s because they so rarely get to third down with all the big plays they give up.
I know the shootout we expected in Green Bay didn’t happen. But if Matt Stafford lasts four quarters, expect this to be a different story.