Ford Field debut: Unless you count last year's rescheduled game between the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants, Monday night will mark the first prime-time regular-season game in the history of Ford Field. It's the Lions' first appearance on "Monday Night Football" since Oct. 8, 2001. This game against the Chicago Bears has long been sold out, and the Detroit Lions sold 2,000 extra standing-room-only seats. The building will be flush with people hoping to see more magic from the Lions and receiver Calvin Johnson, while also putting a three-game gap between the home team and its division rival. Here's a tip for those 2,000 of you trying to position yourselves in the stadium: Johnson has caught seven of his eight touchdown passes on the right side of the field this season. Just sayin'.
Through four games, Lions DT Ndamukong Suh has two sacks and eight tackles.
Protecting Cutler: What's the best way to keep Bears quarterback Jay Cutler off his back Monday night? Improved pass protection or minimal pass plays? I'm sure the Bears would like both, but they might have to settle for the former. The Lions have an opportunistic and feisty defense, but they can be run against. Through four games, opponents are averaging 4.8 yards per rush against them, the 10th-highest mark in the league. The Lions have a modest nine sacks this season, but the Bears don't want to take their chances against Ndamukong Suh & Co. As of this moment, it appears the Bears will have a different set of starters on the right side of their offensive line, including right tackle Frank Omiyale, who was benched last week against the Carolina Panthers. Run, Bears, run.
Quick starts: The Green Bay Packers scored 28 points in the second quarter of last year's divisional playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons. That trend has continued in the 2011 season and would be the perfect avenue to taking out what will surely be an electric crowd Sunday night at the Georgia Dome. The Packers rank second in the NFL with 80 first-half points and are tied for the NFL lead with seven touchdown passes in the first half, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Receiver Greg Jennings has 17 first-half receptions, second in the NFL. There is no doubt the Packers will try to jump on the Falcons early, and it wouldn't be surprising to see them use their new no-huddle scheme to do so.
Getting outside: Why did the Falcons trade up in the draft to select receiver Julio Jones? Largely because the Packers' cornerback tandem of Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams dominated their receivers on the outside in last year's pair of matchups. Woodson and Williams limited Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to 4.6 yards per attempt on passes outside the numbers, according to ESPN Stats & Info, and Ryan finished those two games with a cumulative Total Quarterback Rating of 3.2 on such passes. Both cornerbacks have struggled at times this season, Williams in part because of a bruised right shoulder, and it will be interesting to see whether the Falcons try to capitalize with Jones, who has 24 receptions in his first four NFL games.
So close: Will Sunday be the day the Vikings break the ice? They have been historically close so far; rarely has an NFL team started 0-4 by such a slim margin. The Vikings' four losses have come by a combined 19 points, fewer than all 0-4 teams since the 1970 merger except for the 1991 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13) and the 1974 Detroit Lions (14), according to Elias Sports Bureau. I think that's why coach Leslie Frazier hasn't instituted personnel changes or shown any indication that he plans to veer from his original vision. He seemingly believes the Vikings have been too close in their four losses to merit an overhaul. Maybe all they need is a home game against a 1-3 opponent to get things started. Hello, Arizona Cardinals.