Lose to Green Bay on Monday night with your backup quarterback in the game and your season is rendered effectively over as a .500 team halfway through the season.
Win in Green Bay on Monday night by virtue of a pretty good backup quarterback and of course injure the all-world NFL QB and you are all of a sudden the favorite of the mass media to win the NFC North.
It’s funny how the entire black & blue & NFC landscape can change with one tackle…especially in the minds and mouths of the talking heads that rely on ratings.
Do I love listening to ESPN & NFL network talking about the Bears as the NFC North favorite moving forward? Absolutely. Do I think it’s deserved…hell no!
At this point how are Detroit fans not pissed they aren’t getting more love in the media? With the best receiver in the game, an elusive & dynamic backfield, a reliable gunslinger and a criminally convicted defense, how has Detroit not established themselves as favorites?
Well … because it’s Detroit. Detroit is cursed, the fans know it and the amount of playoff appearances in the last 14 years (one appearance) dictates why the media is showing this lack of respect.
Now this Sunday when the nasty Lions come to the Windy City, the whole division, (as far as the Bears are concerned) is on the line. Win on Sunday and you split home and away with the Lions and have a good chance to go 5-1 and minimum 4-2 in the NFC North. That certainly seems good enough for the playoffs. Lose on Sunday, Detroit controls their own destiny and you are looking at a tough 4-2/3-3 record in the Black & Blue. All playoff chances come to one wild card spot between the NFC North, South & East.
I am hopeful that the Bears will realize this trap that they have fallen into before. Win in a must-win situation, then get too comfortable with themselves the next week. With that, here are the top 5 things to pay close attention to on Sunday at Soldier:
1) Jay Cutler – Need To Say More?
How interesting is it that Jay is coming back just two weeks after a torn groin? Not at all. Jay is a smart business man who operates under incentives. Two years ago Jay would probably have sat for the full duration of the injury. Contract year Jay forces this one with Josh McCown looking just as good as he does.
Jay doesn’t need to prove that he’s tough. But Jay needs to not let McCown win the two biggest games of the year to have Jay come in and potentially blow a playoff chance. How Jay looks in the first half in terms of comfort and performance will go a long way to determine who wins on Sunday.
2) Charles Tillman vs. Megatron
Mega just isn’t human. Not only is he coming off a bye week to rest that week knee, his last game was the 2nd best game ever by a wide receiver, gashing the Cowboys for over 300 yards. He has to be the second key by virtue of respect.
Now the real story is Charles Tillman’s historical impact of shutting Calvin down over Calvin’s career with Calvin coming off of the week that he had and Charles playing the majority of the season injured. Can Peanut sustain another full game? If he can, then the Bears have a shot at shutting down Detroit’s biggest threat to blowing this game open. If he doesn’t, then look for Detroit to pass (and run) all over the Bears weak defense.
3) Dr. Matthew Stafford
Why Dr. Matt Stafford? Well I expect Matty Stafford to pick apart the Bears defense/secondary almost surgically in a spread ‘em out and throw the pigskin offense. Stafford has had an incredible year by his own history and the Bears (again) have had an incredibly (bad) year by their own traditional standards.
Stafford has been more impressive than I can remember him by and he proved that week four in Detroit. If he thrashes the Bears on Sunday, he’s got to be the lead dog for the 2013 NFC North MVP (along with Calvin).
4) In The Trenches
This one goes both ways and really should be in a top five of any football preview. However this game will be of extra intrigue as I watch the future pro-bowl guard Kyle Long adjust to blocking one of the league’s premiere DT combinations in Nick Fairley & Ndamukong Suh. It is going to be critical to establish the run in this game, especially against a team that forced four Jay turnovers the first time around. If anyone can recall, Forte busted a big one last time around.
On the other side of the ball, as if news couldn’t get any worse, Shea Mcclellin is doubtful coming off of his biggest game ever as a Bear. This means the Bears defensive line gets even thinner. The two biggest areas to watch on the Bears defensive line are; Julius Peppers having another repeat good game & if the addition of Jay Ratliff is any type of injection to the line.
5) Joseph Fauria Touchdowns
If this dude scores one more touchdown in the NFL I’m going to break my TV and burn my eyeballs. Not only do I think he’s an awful tight end, his awful TD dances make things twice as worse. If the Bears can’t keep this dude out of the endzone then most likely they are in a bad place. Sure Calvin Johnson is going to get his and most likely as will Reggie Bush. But if Fauria has another td + game today, it’s over for the Bears.