Posted by Matt Clapp | 10/22/2012 04:59:00 PM | Alshon Jeffery, Bill Bentley, Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson, Charles Tillman, Chris Houston, Detroit Lions, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Jacob Lacey, Matt Forte, Michael Bush, Mike Tice
1. Keep Calvin Johnson from going off.
Megatron only has one touchdown on the season, but we know that he's going to break out with a monster performance any time now; he's the best receiver on the planet.
When the Lions beat the Bears on the Monday night game last October in Detroit, Johnson had five catches for 130 yards, with one of those catches being a 73-yard touchdown for the game's first points.
But when the Bears beat the Lions 37-13 last November at Soldier Field, Johnson had seven catches for 81 yards. Those appear to be solid numbers, but no so much when you factor in that Matthew Stafford targeted Johnson a whopping 19 times. Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was superb in coverage. The Bears will need Peanut to play at a similar level tonight, and some safety help will be needed as well. Megatron is the only major weapon in the Lions' offense, and you can't let him beat you.
2. Establish the running game early.
The Bears have arguably the best 1-2 punch at running back in the league with Matt Forte and Michael Bush, but the numbers don't say that, at least yet. Both running backs have been banged up for much of the year, but looked good against Jacksonville, and should be close to full health now. Additionally, offensive coordinator Mike Tice hasn't called run plays as much as he should in some situations, most notably the Green Bay game. He admitted that this week (excerpt via Chicago Tribune):
"There was a guy that was calling plays in Green Bay who didn't call the run enough,'' Tice said, poking fun at himself. "That was part of the problem. Hopefully, he's not showing up this week.''
The Lions have a very good front-seven, but Forte has had plenty of success against them in the past. If the Bears can run the ball with success early in this game, it will open up more for the passing game, and that could really cause issues for a Detroit defense that is expected to be without two of their top three cornerbacks tonight (more on that below).
3. Test the Lions' depleted secondary.
Lions cornerback Jacob Lacey has already been ruled out for tonight's game with a concussion, and cornerback Bill Bentley is listed as doubtful with a shoulder injury. As I alluded to earlier, they're two of the Lions' top three cornerbacks. The Lions are so concerned about their cornerback situation that they signed cornerback Justin Miller off the street today. He hasn't played in an NFL game since 2009.
The Bears are of course without rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, their most productive receiver behind Brandon Marshall. And Marshall will surely be covered by Chris Houston, a regular starter at cornerback for the Lions. However, with very capable veteran receivers Devin Hester and Earl Bennett (returning from a hand injury) active, the Bears should have the opportunity to make big plays on these very suspect cornerbacks.
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