This game is going to be tight.
The last time the Detroit Lions faced off against the Chicago Bears, the Lions escaped Soldier Field with an improbable win. Per Lions protocol, they quickly gave the Bears a 10-point lead in the first quarter, but by the end of the half, the Lions got things going and took a 21-17 lead into the locker room.
The Bears would tie the game up late, but the Lions rebutted with a go-ahead field goal. Just as the Bears were ready to send this to overtime, Connor Barth shanked a 46-yard field goal and the Lions were winners.
Even though the Bears have only gone 1-2 since that game—including an embarrasing loss to the 49ers—they have actually shown some improvement. Here’s a recap of the Bears 2017 season thus far.
Key additions: CB Prince Amukamara,
S Quintin Demps (IR), CB Marcus Cooper, QB Mike Glennon, TE Dion Sims, WR Markus Wheaton, WR Kendall Wright
Key losses: QB Jay Cutler, WR Alshon Jeffery
In-season trade: WR Dontrelle Inman
Key draft picks:
- QB Mitchell Trubisky (Round 1)
- TE Adam Shaheen (Round 2)
- S Eddie Jackson (Round 4)
- RB Tarik Cohen (Round 4)
2017 season results (4-9)
Week 1 - vs. Falcons - Lost, 17-23
Week 2 - at Buccaneers - Lost, 7-29
Week 3 - vs. Steelers - Won, 23-17 (OT)
Week 4 - at Packers - Lost, 14-35
Week 5 - vs. Vikings - Lost, 17-20
Week 6 - at Ravens - Won, 27-24 (OT)
Week 7 - vs. Panthers - Won, 17-3
Week 8 - at Saints - Lost, 12-20
Week 10 - vs. Packers - Lost, 16-23
Week 11 - vs. Lions - Lost, 24-27
Week 12 - at Eagles - Lost, 3-31
Week 13 - vs. 49ers - Lost, 14-15
Week 14 - at Bengals - Won, 33-7
Reasons to be optimistic
The Chicago Bears are going to be missing a few key pieces that they had the last time they faced the Lions. Both defensive end Leonard Floyd and guard Kyle Long have since been placed on injured reserve.
Floyd was a key piece to Chicago’s pass rush. Though he didn’t get a sack last time the two teams met, he was credited with two quarterback hits. The Bears can still rush the passer—they have six sacks in the three games without Floyd—but they are undoubtedly hurt by his absence.
Last matchup, the Lions didn’t have much trouble moving the ball. Matthew Stafford completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 9.6 yards per attempt and a 120.2 passer rating—his second-best performance this year. There’s no reason to believe he won’t replicate that kind of performance, especially indoors at this time of year.
Reasons to be pessimistic:
The Bears have gotten better since the two teams last played, especially on Offense.
Bears DVOA rankings in Week 11:
Pass offense: 31st
Run offense: 19th
Pass defense: 11th
Run defense: 13th
Bears DVOA rankings now:
Pass offense: 28th (+3)
Run offense: 16th (+3)
Pass defense: 14th (-3)
Run defense: 12th (+1)
Unfortunately for Detroit, the Bears’ offense is the exact kind that has given them fits over the past two months. They excel at running the ball (averaging 4.5 yards per carry) and their passing offense is focused on play action.
We saw last matchup how much Detroit struggled against the Bears offense, and since Mitchell Trubisky and the entire Bears squad has improved since, this is a very worrisome matchup for the Lions.
This game has all the makings of a shootout. Last time the two teams played, they combined for 750 yards of offense, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that total increase this week.
The key for the Lions will be to somehow find an answer to their run defense woes and to stay disciplined during play action. That is a difficult task for any team, but Detroit seems to struggle with that more than any other team.
Luckily, Matthew Stafford is playing some of the best football of his career right now, and should be able to keep the Lions in this one. With the added benefit of being at home in Ford Field, Detroit may pull this off, but I think it will be a lot closer than the 6.5-point Vegas line seems to suggest.