Why the Bears will beat the Lions

BY Peter Schrager • November 9, 2011

The Detroit Lions made for quite the feel-good story over the season's first half, didn't they, Adam?

At 6-2 and in possession of one of the NFC's wildcard spots if the playoffs were to start today, the Lions have ridden a high-octane passing offense, a punishing defensive line, and a propensity to come back from big deficits late to some great media puff pieces and a stellar start to the 2011 campaign.

Alas, the playoffs don't start in mid-November, and the Lions' schedule is about to get a whole lot tougher. A 10-6 record is what will be needed for an NFC wilcard spot this year, and though Detroit's sitting pretty at the moment, I'm not so sure I see four more wins in Detroit's future.

In the season's second half, Jim Schwartz's boys face the Packers twice, travel to New Orleans and Oakland, and go up against Phil Rivers, Adrian Peterson, and Cam Newton on separate Sundays. Before all that, they've got to trek to Chicago for a late afternoon game against the Bears in Soldier Field this Sunday.

I don't see them escaping this one with a victory.

Sure, the Lions are 4-0 on the road this year, but three of those games were played in September or early October and one was against Tim Tebow two weeks ago. This is Soldier Field in November against a simmering Bears squad. Different ballgame.

The Bears are 5-3 and coming off three consecutive wins, with the latest coming on the road on national TV against an Eagles team fresh off eight days rest and a 34-7 blowout victory over the Cowboys. Chicago played its best game of the season on Monday night, with all facets of the game functioning. For the first time since he arrived in Chicago, Jay Cutler wasn't sacked once, and the defense came up with the necessary stops down the stretch.

What we have here is a red-hot veteran Bears team — a squad that went to the NFC Championship Game last year — playing at home after nearly a month of being away from Soldier Field, and a Lions squad made of young pups who, for the most part, have never played in games of this magnitude this late in the NFL season. I'll go with the wily veterans and the home field, thank you.

And it's not all roses in Detroit. As the brash young Lions continue to trash talk, taunt, and scrape their way through the season, their warts are beginning to show. The running attack's been spotty over the past few weeks and re-signing Kevin Smith wasn't the cure to those ills. Leonard Davis, the beleaguered former Pro Bowl guard who finished the season weighing close to 370 pounds last season, likely isn't going to boost the run game much, either. These signings scare me. They stink of desperation. With still no reliable timetable for Jahvid Best at the moment, and if zero running game while he's out, it puts a whole lot of pressure on Matt Stafford—a guy who's had little experience, let alone success, down the stretch. Stafford, who grew up in Texas and went to school in Athens, Georgia, hasn't had a ton of cold weather experience. Now we're asking him to toss this team on his back and lead them to wins over a bunch of playoff contenders with no running game?

And there's a dirty little secret about the Lions. As loud as their mouths are, that nine-deep defensive line? They can be run on. Frank Gore and Michael Turner each gashed Detroit. Matt Forte can do the same.

Say what you want about Jay Cutler's "body language" and his tendency to seem disinterested on the sidelines, but behind Brees and Rodgers, it's either him, Cam Newton, or Eli Manning on my NFC Pro Bowl squad right now. Matt Forte's having an All-Pro season, the offensive line is improving every week, and the defense has been suffocating.

The Lions made for a pleasant story in the fall, but this is winter, Adam. And winter's for the big boys.

Give me Urlacher, Peppers, and the guys that have been there before on Sunday over your pass-happy, trash-talking kids from the Motor City.