Monday Night NFL Picks: Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions Monday Night NFL Week 5 Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on ESPN 10/10/11: Last year, the NFC North sent two teams to the playoffs, including the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. The division seems poised to send a pair of teams to the postseason again with the Packers off to a 4-0 start, and Monday night’s showdown between the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions could go a long way to deciding which franchise will be on the fast track to join Green Bay. The Bears actually won the NFC North last season, but the head to Detroit with a 2-2 record, looking up at the 4-0 Lions. While Chicago is just trying to close the gap, a victory by Detroit Monday would be a big step toward ending the franchise’s long playoff drought. It is one of the older rivalries in the NFL, and the Lions enter the matchup as five-point favorites.

The teams played a pair of tight games last season, with the Bears coming out on top in both meetings. Detroit lost the first matchup after a potential game-winning touchdown catch by receiver Calvin Johnson was ruled incomplete. In the rematch, Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler led a fourth quarter comeback and threw a late touchdown pass of his own to seal the victory. Needless to say, there is a good chance that Monday’s meeting could come down the final few possessions.

Of course one key element missing for a majority of both matchups last season was Detroit QB Matt Stafford. However, the former No. 1 overall pick has been healthy this season and has been carving up opposing defenses all season. Not to mention the fact that he has shown plenty of poise, rallying the Lions from 20-point deficits twice in four games this year. The Bears didn’t have to contain Stafford in their wins a year ago, but they will certainly have to find an answer for him Monday if Chicago is going to knock off the unbeaten Lions.

The Bears will also have to find an answer for Stafford’s top target Johnson, who has a league-leading eight touchdowns through four games. His freakish combination of size and speed has allowed him to pick apart just about any coverage. Johnson even caught a touchdown pass amid triple coverage in last weekend’s comeback win against the Dallas Cowboys. If Stafford throws a jump ball at the proper height, Johnson’s height and leaping ability makes the play virtually unstoppable.

While Chicago may not be able to cover Johnson, the Bears stout defensive front should be able to get plenty of pressure on Stafford. If they can keep him on the run or even on his back most of the game, the dominant Detroit passing game could be grounded. Shutting down Stafford completely is likely impossible, but if the Bears can utilize their pass rush to tighten up in the red zone and limit some of the bigger plays, the Lions really don’t have a running game to counter with and change the pace.

Meanwhile, the Bears have the luxury of running back Matt Forte, and he could be the X-factor in Monday’s game. Forte is a versatile back, and he torched the Lions on catches out of the backfield last season. He has been even better this year, and he is coming off a 200-yard rushing performance last weekend against Carolina. The Bears have had serious issues protecting Cutler, and while that could spell serious trouble given the fierce Detroit front led by Ndamukong Suh, Forte’s effectiveness has helped the cause. When Chicago has been able to dominate on the ground, they have been tough to beat.

At some point, the incredible run by the Lions is going to come to an end, but it isn’t likely to happen this weekend. For a franchise striving for respect after being a doormat for so long, a Monday night game at home against a division rival is too big of an opportunity for Detroit to pass up. Stafford and the offense are much better than Chicago has seen in recent years, and Sux and the defense have been nasty and opportunistic throughout the year. While Forte may be a tough matchup, he isn’t going to be able to beat the Lions by himself. Detroit should give the fans plenty to cheer about in this one.

Prediction: Detroit Lions (-6.5) Cover the Spread

Free NFL Football Picks and Predictions: Detroit Lions -6.5

Week 5 NFL Football: Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions
Date: 10/10/011
Time: 8:35 PM EST on ESPN
Vegas Odds - Favorite: Detroit -6.5Total: Over/Under 47

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