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Bears-Lions Game Preview

Fresh off the win, can the Bears take their winning ways to the road?

NFL: Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears won a game but it was hard to get too excited about it because it was just their third and it was against an opponent with just a solitary win.

Now the Bears must travel up to Detroit and take on the division leading Lions. That’s right, in case you need to do a double take, the Lions are in sole possession of first place in the NFC North division.

The Lions are eyeing the playoffs, clinching the division and possibly locking up a bye, not that all of that is to play for, but winning wouldn’t hurt any of those possibilities.

Can the Bears and Matt Barkley, who will be making his first road start, pull off an upset at Ford Field?

Detroit Lions

SB Nation site: Pride of Detroit

Record: 8-4, first in NFC North

Last week: 28-13 win over the New Orleans Saints

Bears all-time record against: 97-71-5

Historical match ups: The Bears and the Portsmouth Spartans met in the first ever indoor professional football game and first NFL Playoff game in the 1932 NFL Championship game at Chicago Stadium. The Lions have won six of the last seven match ups.

Last meeting: 17-14 Bears win at Soldier Field in week four. It was the Bears’ first win of the season. Both teams were 1-3 at the time, since the Lions have gone 7-1 while the Bears have gone 2-6.

Key injuries: Linebackers Tamir Whitehead and DeAndre Levy were limited in practice Wednesday by knee injuries. WR Marvin Jones was limited with a quad injury while TE Eric Ebron was limited by a knee ailment. DE Ezekiel Ansah (ankle) and RB Theo Riddick (wrist) did not participate. Starting center Travis Swanson missed practice with a concussion.

Offense: The Lions offense has been playing well but isn’t an elite unit, ranking only 18th in points scored (22.9 points per game) and 21st in yards (337.2).

Detroit is 15th in passing offense with 256.1 YPG but 29th in rushing with 81.4 YPG. They are tied for last in the league in rushing touchdowns with the Houston Texans with just four TDs on the ground.

No Lions rusher has more than just a single rushing TD and Theo Riddick is the team’s leading rusher.

The passing offense, on the other hand, is humming pretty well with Matt Stafford calling the shots who has 3,224 passing yards with 21 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions.

Stafford’s weapons have changed a little since the last game: Marvin Jones (42 rec./730 yds./4 TDs), who had an awesome start to the season has slowed a bit and Golden Tate has picked things up (65/762/3). Anquan Boldin (53/432/6) remains a redzone threat and Eric Ebron (39/489/1) is contributing when healthy.

Defense: The Lions defense ranks 11th in points allowed (20.9); 20th in pass yards (256) but 13th in rush yards (98). They are +6 in turnover ratio.

Detroit is getting things done on defense despite a very down year for Ansah, who has no sacks in nine games played. Players picking up Ansah’s slack include Kerry Hyder, who paces the Lions with seven sacks, followed by Devin Taylor with 4.5. Rookie A’Shawn Robinson has two sacks on the year.

The secondary has playmakers in safeties Tavon Wilson and Glover Quin who have two interceptions each. CB Darius Slay is the big playmaker on the Lions’ D, boasting 32 tackles, two interceptions, a forced fumble, a sack and 11 pass deflections.

Opposing QBs have had success against Detroit, throwing 22 touchdowns and notching a 101.9 QB rating but also have been picked off 10 passes.

Opposing RBs have six rushing TDs against them.

Key match ups: Because of the Bears’ injury woes there is little use in comparing anything from the first game. Back in week four the Bears had Brian Hoyer, Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White and Eddie Royal all on the field together.

That game was Jordan Howard’s first start and first 100-yard game. Hopefully the Bears continue using him to wear down Detroit’s tough run defense.

The Lions will likely be stacking the box and daring Matt Barkley to beat them deep. This is an easy guess at their strategy based on Howard’s success, the lack of reliable receiving threats available and Barkley remaining an unknown.

Barkley has tended to turn the ball over, so how he approaches throwing at Slay, one of the better CBs in the league, will be one to watch. Can Cam Meredith get open against Detroits No. 1 CB?

On defense, with Tracy Porter likely nursing his knee injury, can Bryce Callahan or Cre’Von LeBlanc match up with Golden Tate and slow him down?

Maybe the Bears get Deiondre Hall back, but that seems to be wishful thinking.

The Lions have allowed 27 sacks, which is 15th, but the Bears’ pass rush has been good for stretches and they will have to show up big Sunday for the Bears to have a chance. Look for Eddie Goldman to get some chances if the Lions are playing a back up center.

What to watch for: The Bears’ M.O. can’t change opponent to opponent with their depth and talent the way it is. The way for them to win is by using a ball control offense with Jordan Howard plugging away on the ground and forcing Detroit into a pass-first situation where the Bears’ pass rush can take over.

In the first meeting the Bears won time of possession and the turnover battle as well as having fewer flags than the Lions. Detroit is playing much better football of late and that week four game was the last time Stafford had a game with no touchdowns and an interception.

Key stats: Since throwing two interceptions and no touchdowns against Chicago in Week 4, Stafford has thrown 14 touchdowns and just one pick. The Bears held Stafford to his lowest rating of the year in that game as well (56.8).

The Bears are 3-0 when Jordan Howard gets over 20 carries.

The Bears have not won at Ford Field since Week 17 of 2012.