The Detroit Lions look to notch their first win of the season in a rematch with the Chicago Bears. Thursday’s Thanksgiving matinee gives head coach Dan Campbell his first chance to face a team for the second time. Hopefully it goes better for Detroit than the first matchup, a 24-14 loss in Week 4 at Chicago that was not nearly as close as the final score indicates.
When it comes to determining who wins football games, there are a number of factors that contribute to a victory. Solid quarterback play, winning the line of scrimmage, protecting the football and taking it away, controlling important situations and overcoming or taking advantage of an injury situation.
In our weekly preview series, Alyssa Barbieri from Bears Wire and Jeff Risdon from Lions Wire went deep into the matchup to determine who has the advantage at the five key factors for winning football games in the NFL.
(AP Photo/David Banks)
Lions Wire: Jared Goff is wounded but it appears he will be back in the lineup after missing Week 11. Goff has not played well, but he has done a decent job at avoiding the crippling mistakes that plagued backup Tim Boyle on Sunday. His refusal to even look at downfield routes is a problem, though some of that blame must also fall on the offensive scheme of coordinator Anthony Lynn and the too-conservative playcalling by head coach Dan Campbell, who took on those duties the last two weeks.
Bears Wire: Bears rookie Justin Fields is sidelined with bruised ribs, which means it’ll be Andy Dalton making his first start since Week 2 before he suffered a knee injury that made way for Fields. Dalton came off the bench in the third quarter against the Ravens, where he put Chicago in a position to win with two touchdowns. It’s exactly why the Bears are paying him as much as they are. The game plan won’t change much, considering Chicago hasn’t done much to help cater it to Fields’ strengths. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Dalton has chemistry with these starting weapons after beginning the season as the starter. With Matt Nagy’s job seemingly on the line this week, he needs Dalton to step up and lead this offense to another Thanksgiving win over the Lions.
Line of scrimmage
(AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
Lions Wire: Detroit’s offensive line has really gelled since LT Taylor Decker returned in Week 10. Rookie RT Penei Sewell pitched shutouts against T.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney in his first two starts on the right side, and Decker blanked NFL sack leader Myles Garrett too. The interior line has fared well despite losing Pro Bowl C Frank Ragnow. RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai will be out with a concussion and that will negatively impact the run game, where he’s excelled. It’s been a dominant line in rushing for 397 yards in the last two games, including effective use of the jumbo package.
The defensive line does not generate a lot of pass rush, but they’ve played the run decently. Former Bears DT Nick Williams can make a splash play here and there. Rookie NT Alim McNeill is a good one. Second-round DE Levi Onwuzurike is coming off his best game against a good Browns OL, though he’s not done much otherwise. Detroit’s linebackers are not assets against the run or the pass often enough.
Bears Wire: The Bears are coming off a six-sack performance against the Ravens, which elevated them to the top of the NFL in sacks with 31. Outside linebacker Robert Quinn is coming off a career game, where he had 3.5 sacks – without outside linebacker Khalil Mack or defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. But the Bears had their struggles against the run, which is where they’re going to need guys like nose tackle Eddie Goldman and defensive tackle Bilal Nichols to step up in Hicks’ absence.
Chicago’s offensive line has been decent this season, but with Fields sidelined, they’re going to need to step up in pass protection with Dalton under center. The strength of the line this season has been in run blocking, and they’re going to need a strong outing to establish the run early with David Montgomery, the very thing that has been Chicago’s bread and butter this season.
Lions Wire: The Lions defense is becoming more opportunistic as the season has progressed. On the season they have 12 takeaways, and five of those have come in the two games since the bye week. That is not coincidental; coordinator Aaron Glenn has mixed up coverages and brought more exotic pressures in the last two weeks and it’s paying off. The offense had two bad giveaways in Week 11 and has had issues with defenses that feature playmaking safeties, but Goff’s return does help in that regard.
Bears Wire: Protecting the football on offense and taking the football away on defense have been points of emphasis for the Bears this season, and it’s something that’s been a struggle during their losing streak. The Bears have a -4 turnover differential through 10 weeks, where they have 10 takeaways and have turned the ball over 14 times. Chicago’s defense recorded their first takeaway since Week 7 last week against the Ravens as Tashaun Gipson picked off backup Tyler Huntley. The Bears offense committed one turnover – a Fields fumble, his ninth of the season. While the Lions are winless, this isn’t a game where Chicago can afford to make any mistakes with a desperate Detroit team looking to take advantage of any freebies the Bears throw their way.
Advantage: Lions (slightly)
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Lions Wire: No team has failed on fourth down attempts more than the Lions offense. Some of that is because the team’s passing offense on third downs is even worse, seldom even trying to throw to the sticks. Coach Campbell has been hit-and-miss with his decisions on kicking vs. going for it, with more misses when the decisions really matter. Kicking and returns have been an adventure, but the Lions have the NFL’s best punter in Jack Fox and the coverage units have been very good too.
Bears Wire: The Bears defense has been decent in the red zone this season, whether it’s holding teams to a field goal or forcing a turnover on downs. They’re allowing teams to score a touchdown on 55.26% of trips inside the red zone, which ranks 14th in the NFL. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the league’s worst offenses has struggled to convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns, as Chicago has scored a touchdown on 52% of trips inside the red zone, which ranks 27th. Third down conversions remain a struggle for the Bears offense, where they’ve converted just 33.05% of third downs, which ranks 29th in the NFL. Meanwhile, Chicago’s defense has done a decent job getting teams off the field on third down, allowing teams to convert on third down 40.31% of the time, which ranks 16th.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Lions Wire: Losing RG Vaitai is a blow, and extra OT Matt Nelson is a loss too. The depth was already taxed up front without Ragnow, though Evan Brown has played well in his place at C. Losing slot CB AJ Parker really hurts, too. The rest of the team is relatively healthy, with starting OLB Trey Flowers the only other player of note the Lions would really miss in the lineup. Goff’s oblique injury is concerning if he can’t get effective zip on the ball.
Bears Wire: The Bears have been ravaged by injuries, and things haven’t been any easier on a short week. They’ll be without starting quarterback Justin Fields, who suffered bruised ribs and isn’t able to play given the quick turnaround. Receiver Allen Robinson missed the last game with a hamstring injury and hasn’t practiced all week, but he did meet with the media, an indication he might be making a return Thursday. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks remains sidelined with an ankle injury suffered in Week 9, and his status doesn’t look good for Thursday, given he missed practice this week. Safety Eddie Jackson is trending for a possible return after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury. He’s been limited in practice this week, but it’s not a guarantee.