Originally expected to miss a minimum of four weeks, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will reportedly start Sunday’s pivotal NFC North clash against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.
Cutler tore the groin muscle in his left leg after he was sacked in the second quarter of Week Seven’s 45-41 loss to Washington, but made his return to Bears practice on Thursday. Head coach Marc Trestman expects Cutler to play.
"There was a critical amount of hard work and effort he put in," Trestman said to The Chicago Tribune, about Cutler. "It says a lot about his commitment to the team."
At 5-3 and coming off a big win over Green Bay on Monday, the Bears are at a critical juncture of the season. Another win over Detroit would split the season series and give Chicago sole possession of first place in the division.
The Lions and Matthew Stafford earned their most dramatic victory of the season two weeks ago against Dallas, and receiver Calvin Johnson made some history in the process.
Stafford lunged at the goal line with 12 seconds left, stunning his teammates and Dallas for a 31-30 comeback victory in Week Nine, and Johnson hauled in the second most receiving yards in a game with 329 yards and a touchdown off 14 receptions.
Chicago got by for one game without Cutler, knocking off the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers 27-20. Josh McNown threw for 272 yards and two scores, and running back Matt Forte gained 125 yards and a touchdown off 24 carries, his first 100-yard game of the season.
The Bears defense also notched a season-high five sacks, just their second time with more than one sack in a game all year. Even with Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs in the lineup Chicago’s pass rush was basically non-existent, totaling 14.0 sacks, the fifth-worst mark in the NFL.
The Lions haven't been much better, totaling 13.0 sacks, and just four in the last four games.
There’s been no word yet on when Briggs will return from the small fracture in his left shoulder, but defensive end Shea McClellin generated tons of pressure against the Packers with 3.0 sacks and another three quarterback hits.
The Lions have had to outgun opponents thanks to a defense that’s 22nd overall, and letting up 24.6 points per game. They are 14th against the run, and in the last two games have only allowed a combined 119 rushing yards
Missing a third straight day of practice, Detroit could miss rookie defensive end Ziggy Ansah due a sprained ankle he suffered against Dallas, as reported by the Detroit Free-Press. Cornerback Bill Bentley and offensive tackle Corey Hilliard also missed Thursday’s session with a knee injury.
Betting Odds: Detroit favored by 1.5 points
Over/Under: 52.5 points
Time: 1 p.m. Eastern
TV Channel: FOX
Prediction: Detroit 30, Chicago 24