By Bryan Dietzler
The 0-3 Chicago Bears will host the 1-2 Detroit Lions in a division game that will be their first of two against each other this year. The Bears are coming off a 31-17 drubbing at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys while the Lions were beaten soundly by the Packers 34-27. The Lions have a pretty potent offense but their defense has been suspect and has been a big reason why they have lost two games this year. Will the Bears surprise the Lions in this one or will Detroit earn a win over the lowly Bears a team that many are saying is the worst in the league.
It’s the same old song and dance this week as it was last week. Will starting quarterback Jay Cutler, who injured his thumb against the Philadelphia Eagles in week two, play or will it be backup Brian Hoyer who starts? Does it really matter? Hoyer didn’t do a terrible job (he had his moments) on Sunday night against Dallas and he didn’t make any mistakes (interceptions or fumbles) but he’s not the quarterback that Jay is. Is Jay even the quarterback that he supposedly is (or should be)? Would the Bears be better off letting him sit and try someone else?
At this point Cutler hasn’t been the quarterback that the Bears had wanted. He has won games but he hasn’t taken them to the Promised Land (the Super Bowl) during his time in Chicago. He’s reaching the end of the guaranteed money part of his contract and it would cost nothing for the Bears to let him go at the end of this season. Has Cutler’s time in Chicago finally started to come to an end? Unless he can come back and save the season it’s at least a little likely that Cutler won’t be a Bear in 2017.
The running back positon has had a bit of a shakeup over the past couple of games. Jeremy Langford is out for 4-6 weeks with an ankle sprain which means that Jordan Howard will get the start. Howard has shown flashes and could be a consistent producer now the he is getting some time. The Bears may still be without Ka’Deem Carey who had hurt his hamstring against the Eagles and was out of last week’s game. Chicago did bring in former Detroit Lion Joique Bell so he will probably see some playing time. More production out of the running backs will make things easier in the passing game but will the Bears be able to get their much maligned rushing attack going this week?
The passing game, with Hoyer at the helm, had done a few things against the Cowboys but there is still much more to do. Kevin White had a nice game in Dallas and looks to be getting better. Alshon Jeffery didn’t see a lot thrown his way but what he did see he caught, for the most part. If the Bears have someone reliable (can Hoyer be that guy) to get these guys the ball, things will go well at the wide receiver position. Eddie Royal is always a good option and tight end Zach Miller is coming into his 2015 form. With a good quarterback, the Bears have the weapons to effectively move the ball through the air. This group is starting to become the least of the team’s worries.
The offensive line held the Cowboys to zero sacks last week but that’s more because Dallas’ defense is a poor pass rushing defense than perhaps anything else. The run game was not spectacular but you can see signs that the offensive line is starting to come together. It can easily be said that right tackle Bobby Massie is the unit’s worst player but the Bears aren’t doing anything to fix it and may not fix it this year. This unit will improve and hopefully they have a good showing in the Lions game.
The defense struggled mightily last week and all three defensive units, the line, the linebackers and the secondary, were to blame. Without nose tackle Eddie Goldman in there, the middle of the defense is soft. Rookie Jonathan Bullard showed a lot of promise in training camp but he’s learning and isn’t a solid option at this time. The veterans need to step up and play better or else teams are going to run and pass all over the defense. The free agent acquisitions are not giving the team their money’s worth.
The linebackers now consist of Sam Acho, Jerrell Freeman, Nick Kwiatkowski and Willie Young. The Bears are missing Danny Trevethan and Pernell McPhee from the lineup but do have some adequate depth at the position. This group needs to step it up and play better and hopefully they can start doing that against the Lions. One thing that this group cannot afford is additional injuries. It would devastate them but keep in mind, just down the road a little is the return of McPhee and hopefully the return of Trevethan. That will make this unit solid.
The secondary is pretty beat up right now but hopefully things will improve. Starter Kyle Fuller is on injured reserve and a few of the other guys have bumps and bruises. The secondary did not do that well against Dallas last week and needs to improve. This unit was supposed to have pretty good depth heading into the season (after what we saw in the preseason) but that depth hasn’t developed as well or as quickly as the coaching staff might have preferred and are showing themselves to be an actual weakness. Hopefully this unit gets healthy and the younger players improve. One key player to mention, Tracy Porter, who was pretty solid last season, has also not shown up that much this season. He needs to get better and step up to be the group’s leader.
Special teams, after being a rough spot for the team the previous season, has turned around to become a bright spot this year. Punting is good, kicking still needs a little work but the return and coverage teams are doing pretty well. It appears as if special teams coach Jeff Rodgers finally has things put together.
But the coach that may really be on the hot seat is offensive coordinator Dowell Loggins. Loggins took over for the now departed Adam Gase (head coach in Miami now) and it was felt that Loggins, an understudy of Gase, would be able to handle the duties and call a good offense. You could see in the preseason that the play calling wasn’t that great (but that was preseason where the play calling isn’t that great anyway) but it’s clear to see now that poor play calling has carried over into the regular season. The offense is running the incorrect plays at times or just completely whiffing on some plays and some of the players look lost out there. Could it be execution? Quite frankly it doesn’t look like it, it looks like the coaching is off kilter and not doing much good for the team.
So the question now is, can the Bears beat the Lions this coming Sunday? The Lions have had two high scoring contests (against the Indianapolis Colts and the Green Bay Packers) but sandwiched in between those games they had a low scoring affair against the Tennessee Titans and Tennessee isn’t a “knock em dead” team. In essence, Detroit has a potent offense but their defense isn’t doing that well.
This may be a similar game to what the Bears experienced on Sunday night. Granted the Cowboys offense wasn’t one of the league’s best but, after the game against the Bears, they looked like it a little bit. The Lions offense (perhaps minus the running game) is a little bit better than the Cowboys and with the Bear’s defense struggling, this could spell disaster for Chicago.
Detroit’s defense is giving up some yards and points so if the Bears offense was able to be on track for this game they could have a pretty time of it. The same was thought about their game against the Cowboys, however, and the offense didn’t have that good of a game (even against a poor defense). Can the Bears turn it around this Sunday against their division rival?
This game is a little bit difficult to figure out. The outcome depends on which Bears team shows up. On offense, if they can get Hoyer going and get the ball moving on the ground they could have a good game. But if the defense plays the way it has so far this season and things aren’t clicking on offense, Chicago will lose this one.
There are many people thinking that the Bears problems lie on offense. That is not entirely true. Anyone who saw the Dallas game should realize that the defense is having its fair share of struggles. The play calling is very odd this year despite the fact the Bears have one of the best defensive coaches in the game with Vic Fangio in charge. Injuries have hurt, yes, but talent issues and play calling have been factors. Can the defense step up and give the Bears a shot at winning this game?
This writer still holds out hope that the Bears will turn it around this season, starting with this game against the Lions. They just need to play near perfect football in order to do it but that is hard for the Bears for some reason this year. They just haven’t been able to get things together and appear to be going backwards rather than forwards (when compared to last year). If they can’t win this game, or in the very least play well, it’s going to be a long, tough season for the Bears as well as their fans and it may result in another year of transitions, firings and changeovers. Did that just happen a couple years ago? Who wants that to happen again? Don’t we want improvement?
The Bears will put up a fight but fall short making their way to 0-4 and keeping themselves in the basement of the National Football League.
Prediction: Detroit 31 Chicago 19