Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears Picks & Preview

Brandon Marshall & Jay Cutler

Bears’ Jay Cutler (left) & Brandon Marshall make a great team

The Detroit Lions travel to the Chicago Bears, and the always intimidating Soldier Field, coming off a huge comeback victory over the Philadelphia Eagles (8.30pm ET, Monday).

The victory, which was just the second on the season for the Lions, came at a pivotal time as it followed a three-game losing skid. In addition to desperately needing a win to keep pace in the NFC North, easily one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, the Lions needed the win because of their upcoming schedule.

They have to face the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears twice more and have one of the toughest non-conference schedules. This includes games against the (4-3) Seattle Seahawks, (5-1) Houston Texans, (4-2) Arizona Cardinals and (6-0) Atlanta Falcons.

It isn’t all bad for the Lions however. Despite being just 2-3 on the season, they have played well enough to be competitors and to be relevant in each game they have played. No doubt, a huge part of this is credited to their offense, namely quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and tight end Brandon Pettigrew.

Together, these three, and the rest of the offense, have combined to have 319.8 passing yards which is second best in the league. The Lions also have a strong defense with the 16th best rank in opponent’s passing yards and 11th best in opponent’s rushing yards.

Going in opposition of the Lions are the (4-1) Chicago Bears. Now while it hasn’t been all good this season for the Bears, they have shown the capability on both sides of the ball to be potential Superbowl contenders.

Led by quarterback Jay Cutler, the Bears have just the 23rd best passing offense, averaging a little over 222 yards a game. This number may not seem too promising but so far, Cutler’s struggles have only cost the Bears in one game and it came against the Packers.

A big part of the reason is wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Being familiar with each other from their Denver days, Marshall immediately became a security blanket for Cutler and has commanded most of the quarterback’s completions. Overall, Marshall has totaled 496 yards in 35 receptions for three touchdowns. Worth note, he is coming off back-to-back games where he caught passes for at least 138 yards with a touchdown in each game.

On defense, the Bears have performed excellently. In terms of rushing offense, their front line of defense has not needed much help. They are first in the league, allowing just an average of 65.8 yards a game. In terms of the passing game, the secondary has been solid as well. They land in the top fifteen with the NF’s 14th best opponent’s passing offense allowing an average of just a little over 225 yards a game.

Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall vs. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson

When you look at the best quarterback to wide receiver combos in the NFL, the names of Stafford-Johnson and Cutler-Marshall are sure to be some of the duos that would top the list.

Cutler and Marshall
Brandon Marshall began his career in 2006 with the Denver Broncos. When the rookie debuted, the veteran Jake Plummer was throwing him the ball. By the time the season ended however, Marshall was catching passes from the Broncos rookie draft pick, Jay Cutler.

NFL Odds at BetOnlineStarting in 2007, the two spent just two full seasons together but in that time, put up great numbers as one of the best QB/WR tandems in the league. In 2007, Cutler threw 20 touchdowns, seven of which went to Marshall.

The following year, Cutler’s TD production increased and so did Marshall’s involvement in the offense. Although he only caught six of Cutler’s 25 touchdowns in ’08, Marshall caught a career high 104 receptions and was targeted a career high 183 times. In their two years together, Cutler and Marshall combined for passes amounting to 2,590 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Cutler, after very public controversies with the Broncos’ front office and coaching staff, found a new home with the Bears prior to the 2009 season while Marshall and his erratic behavior joined the Miami Dolphins a year later.

In two years with the Dolphins, Marshall continued to have success. By 2011, the talented receiver had put together five straight seasons with 1,000+ yards, not once failing to average less than 11 yards per pass. In two years with Miami however, Marshall was not the red-zone threat he had been in Denver. He scored just six touchdowns in those two seasons.

In his first three seasons with the Bears, Cutler too struggled without his favorite target. His completion percentage decreased in each of his first three seasons as did his total yards and touchdowns thrown.

Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson
Calvin Johnson began his six-year career in 2007 with the team he still plays for, the Detroit Lions. He put up monster numbers proving that sometimes it doesn’t matter who you have throwing you the ball. Even in the Lions’ disastrous 0-16 2008 season, Johnson put up big numbers scoring 12 touchdowns and netting 1,331 yards.

In 2009, the Lions selected Stafford as the first overall pick and finally the team’s fortunes started to turn around. For Johnson, this meant having a raw but talented rookie throwing to him and for the most part, it signaled the beginning of a match made in heaven.

Because Johnson is speedy and tall, he is a perfect target for a QB like Stafford who enjoys stretching the ball downfield for the big play. As a result, in 2011 alone, the two combined for 1,681 total yards and 16 touchdowns. So far in 2012, Johnson has seen less endzone targets but is vital to Stafford nonetheless. He has already been targeted 55 times for a total of 558 yards.

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears Betting Picks Verdict

Playing at home, where they have been so strong over the past few years, the Chicago Bears are 6.5 point favorites. It isn’t much of a stretch the way the Bears have been dominating opponents, so don’t be afraid to bet on the Bears to cover the spread.

NFL betting lines at BetOnline