Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte is due for a breakout game, and the Detroit Lions just might provide the opportunity he's looking for.
Forte and the Bears will try to exploit the Lions' uber-aggressive defense, currently yielding just 96 rushing yards a game, with the run this week on Monday Night Football.
Running the ball has always been important to the Bears - remember, they "get off the bus running" - but it's even more important, strangely, now that they have a legitimate passing game. It's simple: The Bears, 10th in the league at 124 yards a game, must run the ball effectively to open up the passing game.
Just take a look at the stats: Quarterback Jay Cutler has a sparkling 122.8 quarterback rating on the play action pass, good for 10.5 yards per catch. And that's where Forte comes in. The fifth-year back is dangerous because he can run as well as catch-and-run, which demands attention from defenses. In short, he gives offensive coordinator Mike Tice options.
On the other side of the ball, the Lions are pretty good up front on defense. The front four accounted for 12 tackles - seven for losses - three sacks and 11 quarterback hits in last week's win over the Eagles. They're talented, aggressive and have a mean streak, and they like playing against the Bears.
They are, however, vulnerable to the run, and were burned on the ground in two of their three losses. Frank Gore and the 49ers had 148 yards, while Adrian Peterson and the Vikings had 123; the Lions lost both games.
Look for a similar game plan Monday night - lots of draws, screens and quick traps to try and counter the quick penetration of the Lions front four.
Besides all of the X's and O's, I'm also expecting a big game from Forte because he has yet to play his best football - he's due. He had 120 of total offense, 80 on the ground, in Week 1 against the Colts, but sprained an ankle in Week 2 and hasn't been the same since. He rebounded with 107 yards on the ground against Jacksonville, and now, after a week off, has proclaimed himself 100 percent healthy.
Prediction: Forte will have 100 yards-plus on the ground, and will break at least one big play off a screen or trap. If he gets his 100, the Bears win.
YCN featured sports contributor Steve Merritt is - for better or worse - a lifelong Chicago Bulls, Bears and Cubs fan.
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