Undefeated Lions make rare Monday appearance

It’s been a long time since the Detroit Lions appeared on a Monday night NFL telecast. How long has it been? George W Bush was in the White House, only 4.8 percent of the U.S. population was unemployed and Gladiator won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The year was 2001, and the result was not pretty. Detroit suffered an embarrassing 35-0 loss to the St. Louis Rams.

But the big wigs at ESPN crossed their fingers and chose to include the Lions in this season’s Monday night schedule after the team ended the 2011 campaign on a four-game winning streak.

The network got lucky, as Jim Schwartz’ squad has opened the 2012 season with a perfect 4-0 ledger. It’s the first time a football team from the Motor City has opened a season 4-0 since the 1980 campaign.

The perfect ledger includes a pair of dramatic victories that saw the Lions overcome 20 and 24-point deficits, respectively in their last two games.

Ironically, Detroit has not lost since these same Chicago Bears registered a 24-20 victory last Dec. 5 as a five-point road favorite. The combined 44 points barely limped above the 43 ½-point closing total, leaving the ‘over’ 7-3 in the last 10 meetings between the two NFC North foes.

Most sports books monitored by the SportsOptions odds product have Detroit as a five-point home favorite over the Bears this time around, with the total set at 47.

The Bears are now 6-0 SU in their last six meetings against the Lions, but just 3-3 ATS. Chicago has averaged 31.8 passing plays and 28.7 running plays during its six-game win streak over Detroit, and has topped 100 yards on the ground in each of the last five matchups.

Detroit is off last Sunday’s dramatic 34-30 victory at Dallas as a 2 ½-point road underdog. The combined 64 points soared above the 46-point closing total, which enabled the ‘over’ to cash in each of the Lions’ first four contests.

The Lions overcame a 27-3 third quarter deficit by taking advantage of three second-half interceptions by Tony Romo – two of which were returned for touchdowns.

Lions QB Matt Stafford completed 21-of-42 for 240 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted once. Stafford has helped Detroit average 33.8 PPG, which is second in the league. The defense has contributed by limiting the opposition to an average of 19 points per game, which is eighth best in the league.

The 15-point differential is one of the reasons the Lions are 3-0-1 ATS through their first four outings.

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who was Detroit’s first-round pick in the 2011 draft, is scheduled to make his NFL debut after missing the first four games due to foot surgery.

That addition to Detroit’s defense might not be good news to a Chicago team that has allowed QB Jay Cutler to be sacked 15 times this season. That’s the second highest mark in the league.

The Bears should be very familiar with the Lions, as they have two of Detroit’s former coaches, Rod Marinelli and Mike Martz, and a former player in wide receiver Roy Williams.

Chicago (2-2 SU) snapped its two-game losing skid last Sunday by edging the Carolina Panthers, 34-29. However, the Bears failed to cover as seven-point home favorites, lowering their spread record to 1-3.

The combined 63 points flew ‘over’ the 41 ½-point closing total, leaving the ‘over/under’ at 2-2 in the season’s first four games.

Chicago yielded 543 yards to the Panthers – the most since allowing a franchise-worst 583 in a win over the Los Angeles Rams during the 1982 campaign. The Bears needed a D.J. Moore interception return for a touchdown and Devin Hester’s NFL-record 11th punt return for a score to beat the Panthers.

Matt Forte joined Walter Payton and Gale Sayers as the franchise’s only players to top 200 rushing yards in a game, finishing with 205 and a touchdown on 25 carries. The Bears’ 224 yards on the ground marked their most in a game since 1988.

Chicago is averaging 23.5 PPG (13th) and is allowing 24.5 PPG (20th).

TRENDS

The Bears are 4-10-1 ATS in their last 15 games as a road underdog and 8-23 ATS in their last 31 outings as a road dog between 3 ½ and 10 points. The ‘under’ is 6-2 in Chicago’s last eight road contests.

Detroit is 16-5-2 ATS in its last 23 overall outings and 9-1-1 ATS in its last 11 games following a straight-up win. The ‘over’ is 9-2 in Detroit’s last 11 home games and 38-18-2 in its last 58 overall outings.

The underdog is 10-4 ATS in the last 14 meetings between the Lions and Bears, with the ‘over’ going 4-1 in the last five matches at Ford Field.

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