The battle for the NFC North crown might become the story in the NFL this year.
The Lions improved to 5-0 with a win over the Bears on Monday night as they kept pace with the 5-0 Packers. And the two teams don’t face each other until the Packers travel to Detroit on Thanksgiving!
According to Football Outsiders, the Lions came into the game with one of the worst run offenses (behind only the Cowboys and the Jets) while the Bears were just above average at stopping the run. So it was a surprise that running back Jahvid Best gashed them for 163 yards. The runs came later in the game when the Bears defense may have been wearing down, but it wasn’t like they were on the field a lot.
The Bears had a huge time of possession advantage (39:03 to 20:57). The Lions offensive line just dominated in the second half and gave Best a lot of room to run and cut back in. Plus Bears safety Chris Harris had a brutal game in run support and the Lions did a good job in pass protection, too.
Lions superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson was great as usual, but what stood out was how the Lions dominated on the offensive and defensive lines for most of the game. I expect that from the Lions defensive line, but their sometimes suspect offensive line did very well against the undersized Bears.
This was a game I expected the Lions to win, and they won it. They have a tenacious defense and a star wide receiver who’s nearly impossible to cover. They’ve had a couple of wins (Vikings and Cowboys) in which their opponents collapsed and surrendered huge leads, but those games also showed that you have to outplay the Lions for all four quarters.
The Packers only play two teams with a winning record over their next five games before they face the Lions. One of those teams — the 3-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — is coming to Lambeau fresh off a 48-3 rout at San Francisco. The Lions play only one team with a winning record (next week they host those red-hot 49ers) before a four-game stretch against teams with losing records. I still expect them both to slip up and they should each lose at least one of those games, but potential is certainly there for a matchup between two 10-0 teams on Thanksgiving.
Both the Saints and Colts made it to 13-0 in 2009 before either team lost. It was just the third time that two teams had ever started the season 10-0, according to Bloomberg, and the closest we came to watching two 10-0 teams face each other was back in 1990, when the 10-1 49ers hosted the 10-1 Giants. The 49ers won that game by a score of 7-3. Ironically, if the 2011 Packers and Lions each make it 10-0, the last time those two teams played was back on December 12, 2010 when the host Lions won by a score of 7-3.