Why this game is intriguing: In one of the NFL's most surprising divisions, the Chicago Bears have emerged as the best of the bunch thus far. Their opportunistic defense creates worry for any quarterback, and Jay Cutler and that offense are continuing to find cohesion. Yet Chicago's only loss came in the division at Green Bay, while the 4-2 Vikings will spend the season trying to prove they are real. What does that all mean? Nothing has been decided. At Soldier Field, with the country watching, this is a solid chance for the Bears to put away an NFC North foe.
What to watch: The problem with playing the Detroit Lions is that the game is never over. They are far from perfect -- quarterback Matthew Stafford has been far too inconsistent -- but playing them is never easy. As they showed against the Rams, the Titans (in a loss) and the Eagles last week, every game is within reach. If Chicago gets up early, maybe taking advantage of a Stafford miscue, you might want to keep watching. As Stafford told me early in the year, the Lions feel confident they are still in every game, no matter the score. Look out late, Bears.
Sitting atop the NFC North, the Chicago Bears appear anything but satisfied with plenty of football still to come.
Having pulled out a much-needed win last weekend, the last-place Detroit Lions are hoping to take another step in the right direction Monday night.
Looking to pick up where they left off before their bye, the Bears try to continue their recent domination of the Lions as these division rivals square off in what could be another intense showdown at Soldier Field.
Chicago (4-1) has had its way with Detroit (2-3) of late, taking seven of eight in the series -- including a 37-13 home win Nov. 13. The teams got into a sideline-clearing fight in that game after Matthew Stafford ripped off D.J. Moore's helmet during Tim Jennings' interception return.
"There's always going to be bad blood," Jennings told the team's official website. "Just the fact that we're Chicago and they're Detroit, and they're in our division and we know we have to go through one another to get to that championship that we need to get to, there's always going to be bad blood with them."
The Lions figure to have trouble ending their woes in this series if the Bears' recent efforts are any indication. Chicago outscored Jacksonville 38-0 in the second half of a 41-3 road win Oct. 7, extending its winning streak to three behind another superb defensive display.
Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs became the first teammates to each return interceptions for touchdowns in consecutive weeks, giving the Bears a league-high 13 picks on the season.
"I just know that we need to keep it going. Guys realize ... taking the ball away is a part of a good defensive game for us," said coach Lovie Smith, whose team is allowing an NFL-low 14.2 points per contest. "We can't wait for them to turn the ball over. We have to go and get it. I think the last couple weeks or so, I think defensively we have scored about as many as the defense has given up. I think it's just a mindset. We have guys that have been around here a long time."
The Bears, who moved into sole possession of first place with Minnesota's 38-26 loss at Washington, sit one-half game ahead of the Vikings and two in front of the Lions.
"Our division took a step up," Smith said. "But as I told the team ... none of that really matters for us. We like the position we're in. Any week you have to be ready to go to play your best football. That's what I saw from (last) weekend. Teams that played 60 minutes or more end up winning the football game.
"Detroit, this week ... I'm sure they've been waiting for this game for a long time."
Coming off their bye, the Lions -- trailing by 10 with just over five minutes remaining in regulation -- appeared headed for a fourth consecutive loss before clawing their way back to win 26-23 in overtime at Philadelphia last Sunday. Jason Hanson connected on the game-winning field goal in OT, his fourth of the afternoon.
The Lions overcame 16 penalties, becoming the first team to win with that many since Cincinnati's 17 in a 37-8 win over Minnesota on Sept. 18, 2005.
"I think it was a big step for us as a team, playing team football today and it was a lot of spirit and guys picking each other up," coach Jim Schwartz told the team's official website. "I think that's a good sign of things to come for this team."
Stafford threw for 311 yards with a touchdown and an interception while safety Louis Delmas -- making his season debut following knee surgery -- had one of the Lions' two picks.
Detroit didn't pick off a pass in its first four games.
"Turnover ratio is well-documented as being part of success," Schwartz said. "But I think we need to worry about executing schemes, making plays, those kind of things. And when you do, you'll take care of the football and also you'll have a chance to get the football."
While Detroit is allowing 3.7 yards per carry -- 10th in the league -- it could have its hands full with Matt Forte. The Pro Bowl back has given the Lions fits over the last eight games in this series, compiling 975 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns.
Jay Cutler, meanwhile, has thrown 10 touchdowns and one interception while posting a 105.4 rating in his six games against the Lions in a Bears uniform.
Chicago, 8-2 on Monday night under Smith, has outscored Detroit by an average of 14.3 points during a four-game home winning streak.