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Bears-Lions matchups and predictions

The Bears will try keep lid Lions' deep-passing game starring CalvJohnson. He scored 73-yard touchdown against Bears last seas(above).

The Bears will try to keep a lid on the Lions' deep-passing game, starring Calvin Johnson. He scored on a 73-yard touchdown against the Bears last season (above). | Carlos Osorio~AP

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STAFF PREDICTIONS

RICK MORRISSEY : 21-20 Bears

Season: 4-1

RICK TELANDER: 24-17 Bears

Season: 5-0

DAN McGRATH: 24-13 Bears

Season: 3-2

SEAN JENSEN: 27-13 Bears

Season: 3-2

ADAM JAHNS: 27-20 Bears

Season: 1-0

MARK POTASH: 31-17 Bears

Season: 3-2

WEEK 7

LIONS AT BEARS

Time: 7:30 tonight at Soldier Field.

TV: ESPN, Ch. 26 (Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters).

Radio: 780-AM, 105.9-FM.

Line: Bears by 61/2.

Total: 47

WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL

ON THE GROUND

The Bears usually make a concerted effort to establish the run after the bye week. They figure to do that to thwart the Lions’ pass rush. Matt Forte rushed for 107 yards on 22 carries against the Jaguars on Oct. 7. The Bears rushed for 214 yards on 33 carries as a team. Led by tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the Lions are more formidable than the Jaguars vs. the run. They’re ranked 12th in yards per game and 10th in yards per carry. The Lions held LeSean McCoy to 22 yards on 14 carries, but Frank Gore (17-89, 1 TD) and Adrian Peterson (21-102) had success.

IN THE AIR

Jay Cutler is 5-1 with a 105.4 passer rating (10 touchdowns, 1 INT) in six games vs. the Lions. He has the potential for a big game against the 16th-ranked pass defense if the Bears can keep the pressure off him. Cutler’s connection with Brandon Marshall is getting better with each game. Marshall is coming off back-to-back 100-yard games (7-138 at Cowboys; 12-144 at Jaguars). With Alshon Jeffery out with a broken hand, the Lions figure to try to take Marshall out of the game, but they might need more than they have in the secondary to accomplish that.

KEY MATCHUP

The Bears have handled Lions DT Ndamukong Suh. It’s Avril who has confounded them the most, with 7 sacks in his last 6 games vs. the Bears. Carimi is being counted on to take a big step in his comeback from a knee injury.

WHEN THE LIONS HAVE THE BALL

ON THE GROUND

RB Jahvid Best, who burned the Bears for runs of 88 and 43 yards last season, is out with a concussion. But the Lions have a quality replacement in former Illinois starter Mikel Leshoure (54 carries, 196 yards, 3.6 avg., 1 TD), who was effective against the Titans (26-100) and Eagles (15-70) in the last 3 games. Leshoure and Joique Bell combined for 108 yards on 22 carries vs. the Eagles last week. Still, the Lions are 19th in rushing (99 ypg, 3.9 per carry). With a defense built to stop the run, the Bears lead the NFL in rushing defense (66 ypg) and are 7th in yards per carry (3.6).

IN THE AIR

At this time last year, Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson was the hottest combo in the NFL, with 9 TDs through 5 games, including the long one vs. the Bears at Ford Field. This year they’ve combined for 0 TDs (Johnson’s 1 TD is from backup Shaun Hill), but the Bears know they can get hot at any time. Stafford, who threw for 41 TDs last year (97.2 rating), has thrown 4 TD passes and 5 INTs (79.2) this year. Nate Burleson (26-224, 2 TDs) is a quality complement to Johnson, but the Bears generally defend him well. TEs Brandon Pettigrew (26-261, 1) and Tony Scheffler (10-140) can’t be ignored.

KEY MATCHUP

The 6-2 Tillman figures to shadow the 6-5 Johnson throughout the game, but in the cover-2, it’s up to safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte to keep Johnson from burning the Bears deep, like he did on a 73-yard TD last season.



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