Lions - Bears Monday Night Preview

THE CHICAGO BEARS PLAN TO PROVE THEY'RE FOR REAL ON MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

Even though the mainstream media has fallen in love with teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans when mapping out possible Super Bowl matchups, the surprising Chicago Bears are the team that's currently grading out as best in the NFL in a variety of statistical metrics. The Bears can prove they're for real with an impressive performance on Monday Night Football against the Detroit Lions in an NFC North rivalry showdown.

If Chicago's only bad game of the year hadn't come in a Thursday Night TV outing in Green Bay, it's possible that a Bears bandwagon would already have run roughshod over the mainstream media. ESPN would have been talking about Jay Cutler like he was another Brett Favre. Tim Tebow? Never heard of him! Chicago is often a team that's overhyped by the media because everyone wants to relieve the Super Bowl Shuffle. For some reason...the Bears are wowing the statheads this year but not the scribes.

Here's why Chicago is grading out so well:

  • Their 41-21 season opener against Indianapolis looked even better when the Colts rose up and shocked Green Bay.

  • Their 23-6 win over St. Louis looked even stronger when the Rams kept playing everybody else tough.

  • Their 34-18 win over Dallas was amazing as it happened, then looked even stronger when Dallas kept hanging around as a Wildcard threat in the tough NFC.

  • Their 41-3 demolition of Jacksonville saw a yardage edge of 501-189, suggesting greatness on both sides of the ball.

That's really what it's all about. Some teams have great offenses. Some teams have great defenses. The numbers so far are showing Chicago playing extremely well on both sides of the ball in a season where it seems 70% of the teams have taken steps backward. And, they stubbed their toe once (on the road against a respected team) while most other contenders have already stubbed their toe twice.

Let's dig a little deeper and see what our indicator stats say about this Monday Night matchup.

DETROIT LIONS AT CHICAGO BEARS (8:35 p.m. on ESPN)
Las Vegas Spread: Chicago by 6, total of 47.5

The market says Chicago is a field goal better on a neutral field, suggesting a pick-em game were this in Detroit. Before the season started, these teams were seen as relatively even...with many preferring Detroit as a darkhorse pick to go further since they made the playoffs last year. Did Chicago really jump to being this much better than the Lions? At the very least, tonight's game is going to solve some mysteries about both of these teams.

WON-LOST RECORDS (scheduled strength according to USA Today)
Detroit: 2-3 (12th ranked schedule)
Chicago: 4-1 (26th ranked schedule)

There's the rub...the skeleton in the closet that has skeptics treading carefully about the Bears. They've played one of the easiest schedules in the league so far. They lost to their toughest opponent, running the table against everyone else. Maybe Detroit's going to look like World Championship material when they play Jacksonville and Indianapolis too. It's worth noting that Detroit did play Tennessee from the weak AFC South, and lost despite winning total yardage big (three non-offensive TD's for the Titans). Both teams played St. Louis, posting one-sided yardage advantages:

Detroit outgained St. Louis by 178 yards in a 27-23 win
Chicago outgained St. Louis by 114 yards in a 23-6 win

St. Louis scored on an interception return vs. the Lions, while Chicago scored on a fumble return vs. the Rams. Take those scores out...and we've got 27-16 for the Lions, 16-7 for Chicago. Interesting.

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL
Detroit: -1
Chicago: +9

Here's the second rub. Nobody thinks a Jay Cutler team is going to dominate the turnover stat like this all season long. If you're +9 through five games, then you're looking at a team that could make a run at +30 over 16 games. Obviously, Cutler's too mistake-prone for that. Those who think that turnovers are mostly "luck" or "random" don't have much faith in the Bears right now either. You regulars know that we believe skill sets and offensive strategies play a big role in this stat. We appreciate that Chicago's defense knows how to force turnovers. We don't believe they'll maintain this pace moving forward though. Frankly, both of these teams can see games blow up in their faces because of poor decision-making from their QB's. That's less likely to happen against the 26th ranked schedule.

OFFENSIVE STATS
Detroit: 419.6 yards-per-game on 5.7 yards-per-play
Chicago: 356.2 yards-per-game on 5.4 yards-per-play

As good as Chicago's looked this year (remember that a 168 vs. Green Bay is pulling down an average that's been terrific vs. everyone else), it's Detroit who gets the nod in this stat. They're better on a per-play and per-game basis against a tougher schedule.

DEFENSIVE STATS
Detroit: 324.0 yards-per-game on 5.2 yards-per-play
Chicago: 291.2 yards-per-game on 4.7 yards-per-play

Great stuff from the Bears. They allowed some garbage time yards to the Cowboys in that blowout, or these numbers would be even lower. We're comfortable saying that Chicago is playing something close to championship caliber defense to this point in the season. They'll look more mortal as the schedule evens out. Tonight will provide a very good test because they're facing some weaponry. Note that Detroit's defense is probably better than you were thinking. Their special teams play has been AWFUL this season, putting points on the scoreboard that shouldn't be blamed on the defense.

MOST RECENT BOXES

DETROIT 26, PHILADELPHIA 23 (in overtime)
Total Yardage: Detroit 449, Philadelphia 357
Rushing Yards: Detroit 138, Philadelphia 71
Passing Stats: Detroit 22-45-1-311, Philadelphia 28-46-2-286
Turnovers: Detroit 1, Philadelphia 3
Third Downs: Detroit 23%, Philadelphia 47%
Vegas Line: Philadelphia by 3.5, total of 47.5

Detroit rallied in the fourth quarter to steal a victory here. They've had a funny season where they've trailed on the scoreboard for the bulk of the season even while compiling great stats. That's a reflection of their poor special teams play...and the tendency of this offense to make big plays every so often while failing to move the chains consistently. We're not going to suggest the Lions are a meaningful postseason threat until they learn how to move the chains.

(Chicago had a bye last week, this is their most recent game)
CHICAGO 41, JACKSONVILLE 3
Total Yardage: Chicago 501, Jacksonville 189
Rushing Yards: Chicago 214, Jacksonville 60
Passing Stats: Chicago 23-39-1-287, Jacksonville 17-33-2-129
Turnovers: Chicago 1, Jacksonville 3
Third Downs: Chicago 59%, Jacksonville 38%
Vegas Line: Chicago by 5, total of 40

You don't see many games like this in the NFL thanks to parity. Particularly one dominated by the visitor early in the season when the home dog has no reason yet to have thrown in the towel. Evidence right here that Chicago is an upper echelon team...while Jacksonville is one of the worst (if not THE worst) of all pro teams this year.

BEST EXPECTATION
Normally, we don't use special teams estimates in the NFL because professional teams are so evenly matched in that area of play. But, the Lions have been a special kind of bad...which means you have to be sure they've fixed those problems before trusting them with serious money. If the Lions have made the right adjustments...then our indicator stats would suggest this line is too high. Both teams are contenders. They should play a hardfought game against each other. But, if the Bears return a punt for a TD, or a kickoff for a TD, or make another huge defensive play that sets up cheap points...then the metrics get skewed. Chicago will have the stats of a 3-4 point win during a double digit victory keyed by cheap points.

JIM HURLEY has been working very closely all week with his team of experts to make sure he gets this game right. Monday is the most important sports betting night of the week in Las Vegas! He's crunched the numbers...done the legwork...and consulted with his Wise Guy connections to make sure clients get the right play (whether it's a side or a total).

You can purchase this week's MONDAY NIGHT MASTERPIECE right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about our service, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to ask about adding the World Series to any football package.

Back Tuesday to talk more football here in the NOTEBOOK. We'll run a stat preview of the World Series Wednesday to get you ready for that night's opening game. Be sure you're with us EVERY DAY so you know what's REALLY happening in the world of sports! And remember that BIG, JUICY WINNERS are always just a few clicks away with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

22
Aug

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