CHICAGO -- Greetings from the general vicinity of Monday Night Football, where I feel fortunate to have arrived on schedule given the persistent rain the Chicagoland area has been receiving all morning. The current forecast calls for showers and thunderstorms throughout the afternoon and evening, so we might get the Blackest and Bluest game we've seen in a while at Soldier Field.
I'll head downtown soon in hopes of avoiding the worst of the traffic and rain, but I might be away from the blog for a bit. So let's use this post as a pregame gathering point and a dissemination of reading and viewing material to get you in the right frame of mind.
In the video accompanying this post, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford calls the rivalry with the Chicago Bears "heated." Stafford adds: "I have a ton of respect for the Bears and all their players. But at the same time, everybody on that field is a competitor. Sometimes people get to talking, and it makes the game that much more fun."
Here's what I wrote about last year's chippy game at Soldier Field, one that ultimately led to $62,500 in fines for players on both teams. It was highlighted by a tussle between Stafford and Bears cornerback D.J. Moore, but for the most part the Bears did a better job of keeping their emotions on the edge while the Lions fell off the cliff.
In our coverage this week, we noted the falloff in production by Lions receivers with names other than Calvin Johnson. The Lions will be short-handed, experience-wise, at cornerback. And the secret of Chicago's offensive success has been that its defense has staked it to leads.
ESPN's experts have delivered a free chip to the Lions' shoulders. All 14 have picked the Bears to win.