CHICAGO BEARS (3-0)
at DETROIT LIONS (2-1)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Line: Detroit -2.5, Total: 47
The unbeaten Bears try to dominate the Lions again on Sunday when the NFC North foes clash on Sunday at Ford Field.
Chicago is 9-1 SU in the past 10 meetings in this series, but Detroit is 4-1-1 ATS in the past six matchups, losing by two and six points last year. The Bears crushed the Steelers 40-23 on the road last week despite being outgained by 201 yards. They forced five Pittsburgh turnovers to increase their total to 11 takeaways in 2013. The Lions also won on the road, 27-20 at Washington, without top RB Reggie Bush (hip), who is probable to return in Week 4. QB Jay Cutler has 12 TD and 1 INT in this series since coming to Chicago, while Lions QB Matthew Stafford has struggled mightily with just 4 TD and 11 INT in this series. This matchup is difficult to handicap as both teams possess multiple glaring negative trends. The Bears are 0-8 ATS coming off a non-conference game over the past three seasons, and 3-19 ATS (14%) versus excellent offensive teams (6+ yards per play) since 1992. But in the past three seasons, Detroit is 0-10 ATS versus excellent passing teams (64% or better completion pct.) and 4-14 ATS (22%) after gaining 6+ yards per play in its previous game.
Can the Bears stay unbeaten in a hostile environment? For the answer, connect to NFL Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 season and playoffs. During the 2012 campaign, the experts combined for a 52% ATS success rate in NFL Best Bets, highlighted by StatFox Brian's 60% ATS mark (36-24-2 ATS) and StatFox Dave's 53% ATS accuracy (44-41-4). StatFox Scott and StatFox Gary dominated NFL Totals, with Scott going 57% (38-29-1) and Gary cranking out a 56% clip (28-22-1) during the season, capped off by a perfect 4-0 run in the postseason.
Chicago QB Jay Cutler has been very comfortable in new head coach Marc Trestman's offense this season, getting sacked only three times combined in three games. This great protection has led to a career-best 67.3% completion rate (5th in NFL) with 693 passing yards, 6 TD and 3 INT. WR Brandon Marshall is still Cutler's first look when he drops back, completing 20 of 27 targets to Marshall for 269 yards and 2 TD. However, three other players have also earned 20+ targets this season, RB Matt Forte (18 catches, 138 yards), WR Alshon Jeffery (13 receptions, 104 yards) and TE Martellus Bennett (12 catches, 135 yards) who has provided a reliable red-zone target with three touchdown grabs. The Bears have also done a decent job rushing the football with 105 YPG on 3.8 yards per carry. Forte has been the workhorse with 55 carries for 225 yards (4.1 YPC) and a pair of scores. On the defensive side of the ball, Chicago has stuffed the run nicely, ranking eighth in the NFL in both rushing defense (89 YPG) and yards per carry (3.6 YPC). However, opponents have thrown for 294 YPG (9th-most in NFL) on a hefty 8.5 yards per attempt (4th-worst in league). The pass defense also has to adjust to star CB Charles Tillman's groin injury that will prevent him from shadowing Lions stud WR Calvin Johnson like he usually does.
Detroit's offense will certainly benefit from do-it-all RB Reggie Bush returning to the field, but it will be missing No. 2 WR Nate Burleson for the next six weeks or so after he broke his arm in a car accident early this week. Burleson's absence will put more onus on WR Ryan Broyles, who is still recovering from last year's torn ACL, and WR Patrick Edwards, who missed last week's game with a sprained ankle, but does expect to return on Sunday. But the Lions have other perfectly healthy weapons in QB Matthew Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson and RB Joique Bell (296 total yards, 3 TD). Stafford has taken just two sacks over the first three games, which has given him the confidence to throw for 1,020 yards (4th in NFL) on 8.4 YPA (5th in league) with 6 TD and only 2 INT. Although Stafford has been terrible versus the Bears in his career, a lot of that has to do with Johnson being limited by Bears CB Charles Tillman. Last season, Johnson set an NFL record with 1,964 receiving yards (123 per game), but gained only 106 yards (53 per game) against the Bears. With Tillman hurting, Stafford and Johnson could both enjoy a huge afternoon. Detroit has better offensive balance this year with both Bell and Bush capable of rushing the football, but the team is averaging just 75 rushing YPG (7th-worst in NFL) on 2.9 YPC (4th-worst in league). Detroit's defense has been below average in terms of total yards per game (366 YPG, 18th in NFL) and yards per play (5.7 YPP, 22nd in league), but has produced the best stoppage rate on third downs in the NFL, allowing opponents to convert a mere 26.5% of its third downs. The Lions have also done a nice job of making plays with seven takeaways (5 INT, 2 fumbles), but have only a half-dozen sacks on the season. Losing DT Jason Jones to a season-ending knee injury will hurt, but Detroit still has plenty of talent on its front line with three former first-round draft picks in DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Nick Fairley and rookie DE Ezekial Ansah, who recorded two sacks last week.