With a three-way tie for first place in the NFC North, Sundays game is certainly the biggest game of the season for the Chicago Bears (5-3) and Detroit Lions (5-3).
The winner will have at least a share of the NFC North lead and for the Lions it could potentially be a two-game lead because of the tie-breaker. The Lions took care of the Bears in Detroit week 4 and will look to sweep the season series for the first time since 2007.
The Bears on the other hand are trying to build on their huge win against the Packers at Lambeau Field and regain control of the NFC North.
Here are six key players for Sunday’s showdown in Chicago.
Long struggled in his first matchup against Ndamukong Suh and the Lions. Since then Long has played well in his first year in the NFL. Long will again have the tough task of going against a good Lions defensive line.
Whether it’s Josh McCown or Jay Cutler starting for the Bears, they must protect their quarterback. That falls on the rookie Long who will look to rebound the second time around against Detroit.
In the last meeting between the two teams, Reggie Bush ran wild against the Bears defense. Its a few weeks later and the Bears are still struggling on defense which could lead to another big day from Bush. In week four, Bush finished with 139 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. He made the Bears look foolish on some plays.
The Lions will look to establish the run game early against the Bears defense to open up the pass. If Bush can have another big game, it could be the main key for a Lions win.
Suh had a nice game against the Bears in week four and will go up against a young Bears offensive line again on Sunday. Suh is a dominant force for the Lions on the defensive line and defiantly a game-changer on defense. The Bears must protect and limit Suh from getting to quarterback Jay Cutler.
If Suh has a big game, it could spell trouble for Cutler all game long. Suh will look to take advantage of going against a rookie offensive lineman and have a big game.
Jeffery is proven to be a reliable target for Cutler and the Bears offense. He’s currently on pace to go over 1,200 receiving yards on the season and has been a bright spot in the offense.
He is the perfect complement to Brandon Marshall and gives the Bears another threat in the passing game. If the Lions try to focus in and stop Marshall, Cutler will certainly look Alshon’s way.
Mathis is now a key part of the Lions defense, especially with the injury to Bill Bentley. He will have the task of going up against Chicago’s tandem of receivers and shutting them down.
With good play from Mathis, the whole defense could benefit from his solid contributions. The veteran does bring some versatility to the Lions defense as he could move inside if needed.
Chris Conte/Major Wright
The Bears tandem of safety’s have struggled this season and at times it’s been brutal. Conte is coming off of back-to-back bad games against the Redskins and Packers. Wright hasn’t played the best either.
Going up against a good Lions offense, the Bears will need better play from their secondary. Conte and Wright need to have better games and the Bears cant afford another bad game from the pair. Especially with a receiver like Calvin Johnson streaking down the field.