In 2011, the young, talented core of players for the Detroit Lions powered them to a playoff berth for the first time since 1999. Getting off to a fast, 5-0 start was vital in earning a Wildcard spot and finishing 10-6—second in the NFC North.
Head coach Jim Schwartz has changed the culture of the, once, worst franchise in professional sports. Just four years removed from a winless season, Schwartz has helped shed the losing mentality of the previous regime and has installed a winning attitude among Lions’ players, the coaching staff, and the front office.
Detroit is gearing up for the 2012 season with hopes of building off of their first-round loss to New Orleans by making a deeper run. Schwartz and company believe they have what it takes to achieve similar success in the upcoming season; something that could be bad news for the Bears and their Super Bowl aspirations.
With Green Bay undoubtedly the NFC North’s team-to-beat, Detroit is hoping to solidify their spot at number two with another successful season. For Chicago to unseat the Lions they have to start by sweeping them in division play.
It has to be weird for most Bears fans to think of Detroit as a formable opponent. Chicago has dominated the series in the last couple of years and, until last season, hadn’t suffered a loss to Detroit since 2007.
The most glaring change is Detroit’s talent level. Calvin Johnson is finally putting all of his tools together and is now arguably the best receiver in the NFL. He and quarterback, Matthew Stafford, have become one of the most feared duos in the NFL.
Combine Johnson’s ability with Stafford’s willingness to give him the ball in any situation and it’s a nightmare for defenses. Ndamukong Suh leads a defense that was top-ten in sacks. Although there are still some secondary concerns, the unit is continuing to get a lot better on every level.
Still, Chicago looks like they have a more complete team, and it’s something they have to take advantage of.
The first matchup between these two teams is on October 22nd—Monday Night Football—in Soldier Field. Last year, these two teams opened up on the same Monday night stage, and the Bears lost to an electric Ford Field atmosphere.
Chicago needs to return the favor in order to put Detroit back in their place as the third best team in the division.
Filed under: NFC North