Week five of the 2011 NFL season comes to a close tonight as the 4-0 Detroit Lions host the 2-2 Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. As with last week's Bucs-Colts game, I thought an MNF open thread was of particular value because the 49ers will be facing the Lions in six days. This will be the second straight 49ers' opponent coming off a short week. The big difference this week is the 49ers will be traveling to Detroit.
The Lions are an intriguing team this year and not just because they are 4-0. Aside from a blowout of the Kansas City Chiefs (48-3 by the way), the Lions have won three games all by one score or less. Some question whether they are "for real" based on some of these close games, but they can continue putting those questions to rest with a solid performance tonight on Monday Night Football.
There will be plenty to observe on both sides of the ball as the Lions have some monster playmakers on their roster. The most well-known player is probably wide receiver Calvin Johnson, known to many as Megatron. People will make arguments for a few different receivers being "the best" in the NFL, but Megatron is my choice. My favorite play of his this season was the touchdown he caught while being covered by three receivers in the end zone. On a close-up replay from the opposite end zone, as Johnson got into the end zone and turned around, he flicked his hand up as if to say, just throw it up. Matthew Stafford tossed it up and Megatron hauled it in. There's a very good reason he's named after a Transformers character.
In the rushing attack, Jahvid Best has struggled to put it together this year. He's averaging only 3.2 yards per carry and hasn't put together enough of the big plays Lions fans envisioned when he was drafted out of Cal. The Lions rank 29th in adjusted line yards with no significant success this season. They face a Bears defensive line that has struggled against the run and will look to get something going. The 49ers bring their dominant rushing defense to town next week. The 49ers may have to play a bit short-handed in stopping the run as they will be busy dealing with Calvin Johnson. Given the Lions rushing struggles this season, that might not be the worst thing in the world.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions are most well known for a defensive front seven led by Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch. Their defensive line hasn't been as dominant as I would have expected coming into the season, but there is no doubt about that talent. They will present a stiff test for the 49ers offensive line this Sunday, which will look to build on the success they had against the Bucs defensive line yesterday. The 49ers got a little lucky when Gerald McCoy was knocked out of the game early on, but even still it was a masterful performance by the 49ers offensive line.
Chris Houston and Eric Wright appear to be off to solid starts, but I plan on keeping an eye on both of them tonight. Houston is tied with Carlos Rogers and a couple other guys for the NFL lead in interceptions with three. I'd like to see how the Lions secondary handles Jay Cutler and the Mike Martz passing attack. The offensives Detroit faces tonight and next Sunday are different, but I'd still like to see what schemes Detroit employs.
I'll be back with a recap later tonight, but for now, feel free to discuss the game in here. The Bears are off to a bit of an inconsistent start, but hopefully we'll get an entertaining matchup tonight on Monday Night Football.