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Silverman: Lions Will Falter & Give Bears Their Opportunity

By Steve Silverman-

(CBS) The Chicago Bears are going to have an opportunity to make the playoffs as the NFC North champions.

Who knows if the Bears are going to bust through the door and win either two or three games so they can leave the Detroit Lions in the dust.

After going to Cleveland on Sunday, the Bears finish the season by playing at Philadelphia in Week 16 and then hosting the Packers in the final game of the season.

None of those games appear to be easy, including this week's game against the defensively sound Browns.

But that's not the subject we are going to discuss. Right now, the Bears are a 7-6 team that is tied with the Lions for first place in the NFC North. Both team are one-half game in front of the battered and bruised Green Bay Packers.

The Lions have the tiebreaker edge over the Bears because they won both head-to-head meetings.

If the Lions go 3-0 in the final three games, they win the division. Plain and simple.

That's the one thing that is not going to happen. The Lions host the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night, face the New York Giants at home next week and then close the season at Minnesota.

The Lions are not going to win all of those games. They are most likely going to win their home game against the Giants. However, it would not be shocking if they went 0-3.

This has nothing to do with overall talent. Nearly every NFL observer believes the Lions have the kind of personnel that should put together a 12-4 or 13-3 record.

But the Lions don't play up to their talent and they never have. There have been moments this year that gave the impression that Jim Schwartz's team was ready to grow up and take advantage of their opportunities – in wins over the Bears and the Cowboys -- but they choose to spit the bit on a regular basis

Start off with the dropped passes. No team in the NFL drops more passes than the Lions. Matthew Stafford's receivers have dropped 51 passes this year. The New England Patriots are second in that category, having dropped 43 of Tom Brady's passes.

Kris Durham (nine), Calvin Johnson (eight) and Reggie Bush (eight) are the leading offenders in this category. Stafford has never been anything but supportive of his receivers publicly, but postgame film sessions are not the warmest get-togethers.

The Lions have lost three of their last four games, including an inexplicable home defeat to the Bucs in Week 12. The Detroit defense, with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley leading the way, could not contain Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon.

Head coach Jim Schwartz was left scratching his head by his team's incompetence.

It would be wrong to expect Schwartz to come up with solutions. He is more interested in having players prove they are tough guys who won't get intimidated on game day than making the smart plays to win games.

They don't know how to finish the deal. Last week at the Snow Bowl in Philadelphia, the Lions built a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. By the time the game was over, the surging Eagles had scored 34 points while rolling to an easy victory.

LeSean McCoy ran for 217 yards against the sixth-ranked run defense in the league.

That doesn't happen unless a team as talented as Detroit loses concentration (which translates to loses interest) and simply gives the game away. McCoy did not have holes or cracks to run through against the Lions; he had wide-open, snow-covered highway lanes available.

The Lions have no answers and they will get the national stage on Monday night against the Ravens. They will get another national TV opportunity to look dazed and confused. The Ravens will almost certainly embarrass them.

Whether they recover enough to beat the disappointing Giants is 50-50, but then they have to go to Minnesota and take on the Vikings.

Minnesota is not a good team, but Adrian Peterson will be a force at home in the final game of the season and the Lions special teams have already been burned by Vikings speedster Cordarrelle Patterson.

Detroit is likely to finish at 8-8. If the Bears can win two of three, they will come away with the division title, barring a 3-0 finish by the Packers.

It's up to the Bears, because the Lions will give them their opportunity.


Jeff Pearl
Steve Silverman

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.

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