By: Eric Thomas
There are some NFL pre-season publications that are starting to oil their way into the collected consciousness. At least one of them fingers the Chicago Bears as the favorite to finish second in the NFC North. This has caused rancor and chortling among the Detroit Lions, and there is good reason. I feel comfortable when I say that we don’t respect the Bears because we think Jay Cutler is a wimp.
Predictions before the 4th of July for the NFL season are notoriously odious. Let’s not forget the Eagles were supposed to be the dream team. Teams that are picked as the pre-season favorite are circled on the calendar by their opponents and crushed when the games count. I acknowledge its futility and press on.
Chicago has gotten much better this year. Mike Martz has left the building and I am sure there are plenty of people on Lake Shore and Wacker Dr that would have been willing to drive him to the city limits. Martz’s scheming never really worked for the Da Bears faithful, least of which for their quarterback that was beaten like a rented mule most games. Last season the Bears were cruising along and looked as though they would make the playoffs before the injury bug swallowed both Matt Forte and Cutler.
Of course, we can all remember our own Martz administration. The creator of the greatest show on turf was shouted out of town in 2005. We groused about the lack of a north and south running game and how it seemed like everything was an elongated series of crossing routes leaving the quarterback vulnerable for seemingly hours. The relief finally came when Martz left and the Lions never won another game.
So at least there is some of that hope for Lions fans, but I don’t see that happening to the Bears. If anything, Jerry Angelo and Martz were never on the same page. The offense always seemed like the personnel would have been more amenable for the black and blue division. Matt Forte can definitely run and Cutler is more of a “down the field” kind of passer. If the play action pass is implemented with even a whisper of deft than the Lions are going to be in trouble. They landed Brandon Marshall who is going to haunt our dreams. Marshall is a big receiver who is tough to bring down. Lions fans might point out that the Bears got Roy Williams last year …. Actually never mind.
The Lions, on the other hand, haven’t gotten better at all in the places where they needed to. They were in desperate need of a running game. That hasn’t been addressed. I was dismissed as a fool when I said the Lions should target a RB in the draft, because they had already spent so many picks at the position. Then they grabbed a WR in the second round. Apparently there is never enough picks at that position. The defensive secondary is still porous (being generous) and there still isn’t a running game. Having Matt Stafford pump to the flat doesn’t count as play action. Eventually they will be on to us.
Lions fans are understandably frothy going into this season. The team turned a corner last year. They had a 10 win season, which before last year sounded like the kind of thing that could only be possible when one is under the influence of powerful narcotics. I could scarcely believe my eyes as I left the stadium following the San Diego game. They put the record on the video board and I half expected Alan Funt to drop from the rafters, pointing and guffawing the whole way.
We assume that the team will just keep taking giant steps forward but that just isn’t how it works in the NFL. It seems unfair that the Lions were bad every year consistently. Why can’t the opposite be true? Because you can’t keep going into seasons not fixing your problems. The defensive secondary was putrid in 2011, especially at the end, and there is only a handful of late draft picks to fill the void.
In the meantime, the Bears have gotten healthy. They rid themselves of the Mike Martz’s and got Brandon Marshall. The Bears are going to be tough, and will probably compete with the Packers for the division. The Lions have guaranteed that they will have to win a shootout against both Chicago and Green Bay. They will probably win two of those four games, but that is not enough to compete.
But hey, at least we aren’t Minnesota.