Lions' defense to put game in Cutler's hands

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Lions' defense to put game in Cutler's hands

As the Lions take on the Bears tonight at Soldier Field in adivisional matchup with potential post-season implications, the Lions defenseaims to be the deciding factor in Monday nights contest. M Live reporterJustin Rogers suggests that the Lions should focus on QB Jay Cutler in order tosucceed. Cutler has been underwhelmingso far this season after being reunited with WR Brandon Marshall. Through sevengames, Cutler has completed on 59 percent of his passes for a 78.7 rating alongwith seven interceptions.

Cutler is prone to making mistakes whether he is pressuredor not, wrote Rogers. The Bears offensive line has been shaky and the Detroitdefensive line is coming off its best performance of the season...Detroit needsto do what it did to Michael Vick and deliver a few hits to Cutler early,making him uncomfortable in the pocket.

While Cutler will be the main focus, Lions cornerback Chris Houstonhas made a habit lately of shutting down the oppositions top wide receivers the past fewweeks. Recent victims include Tennessee's Kenny Britt, Minnesota's Percy Harvin, and Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson.The Lions premier corner draws a tough match-up this week as 6-foot-4, 230-pound wide receiver Brandon Marshall has five inches and more than 50 pounds on Houston. The secret toHoustons success is preparation. In a recent conversation with Dave Birkett ofthe Detroit Free-Press, Houston shared his recipe for success.

Houston said he spends an extra 4 hours or so nightly,usually 6-10 p.m., watching film of his opponent for the week. First he watchesan entire game, then receivers individually, then he delves into specificcutups, the offense in certain down and distance situations or by hash splits.

The Bears will have their own defensive agenda this eveningagainst Calvin Johnson. Detroit News reporter Josh Katzenstein points out thatsince 2010, Megatron has had a lot of success against the Bears. In his pastthree games, Johnson is averaging five catches for 92.3 yards with twotouchdowns.

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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