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Week 11 Game Preview: Bears-Lions

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The Bears are 0-3 against the division so far, is this the week they turn it around?

Cleveland Browns v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Lions, like in so many other seasons, are hard to get a read on.

They are one of two teams to beat the division-leading Vikings but then they were tied with the 0-9 Cleveland Browns into the fourth quarter last week.

The team is 5-4 but under closer inspection, all of those wins don’t look spectacular: Aaron Rodgers-less Packers, New York Giants, Arizona Cardinals and the Browns to go along with the Vikings win.

They’ve lost to the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and two teams the Bears defeated, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers.

So which team will show up at Soldier Field?

Detroit Lions

SB Nation site: Pride of Detroit

Record: 5-4 (Second in NFC North)

Last Week: 38-24 win over the Cleveland Browns

Bears All-Time Record Against: 97-72-5

Historical Match Ups: The first match up between the teams after the Lions moved to Detroit and became the Lions (following their existence as the Portsmouth Spartans) was Nov. 29, 1934.

The Bears beat the Lions 19-16 to improve to 12-0 as Detroit fell to 10-2. The winning score was a touchdown pass from Bill Hewitt to Bronko Nagurski.

Chicago lost the championship one week later to the Giants.

Last Meeting: 20-17 loss to the Lions in Detroit in Week 14 last year. Cam Meredith caught a Matt Barkley touchdown and Cre’Von LeBlanc returned an interception for a touchdown but Matthew Stafford rushed for a the winning score with just over three minutes left in the game.

Somehow Barkley did not throw a pick on his 32 pass attempts.

Injury Report: The Lions listed five players on their Wednesday injury report:

  • DE Ziggy Ansah did not participate due to a back injury
  • RB Dwayne Washington did not participate due to a hip injury
  • S Don Carey was limited with a knee injury
  • LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin was limited by an ankle injury
  • G T.J. Lang did not participate due to a concussion

Offense: The Lions come into the game ranking 15th in offensive yards per game and sixth in points.

The passing game ranks eighth in yards and attempts but lags in the ground game, ranking 29th in yards and 23rd in attempts.

This disparity is illustrated by their rushing touchdowns (4, ranks 23rd) compared to their passing touchdowns (17, ranks sixth).

Leading the passing attack is Matthew Stafford, who has the fourth-most passing yards in the league. His weapons this year are led by Golden Tate (56 rec./659 yds./3 TDs), Marvin Jones (34/537/5), TE Eric Ebron (20/234/2) and RB Theo Riddick (32/278/2). Lurking are TE Darren Fells (12/123/3) and rookie Kenny Golladay (9/166/2) who returned from injury last week.

The ground game is led by Ameer Abdullah (133 att./469 yds./3 TDs) who is averaging 3.5 YPC, followed by Theo Riddick (31/106/0). Zach Zenner (10/16/1) is the only other running back of note right now.

Defense: The defense of the Lions ranks 22nd in yards allowed and 21st in points allowed.

They rank better against the run (10th fewest yards allowed) than the pass (25th most yards) but have oddly allowed the second-most rushing touchdowns in the league (10).

Opposing quarterbacks have thrown exactly as many touchdowns as interceptions (11). The touchdowns are the seventh-fewest while the interceptions are the third most.

The Lions rank 18th in sacks with 20, led by Anthony Zettel (6), followed by Ansah (4). They have three players with two sacks each and four with one each.

The secondary is full of ballhawks like Darius Slay, who has four interceptions and Glover Quin, who has three. Safeties Tavon Wilson and Miles Killebrew, LB Tahir Whitehead and DT A’Shawn Robinson have one each.

As a team, Detroit is +7 in turnover margin.

Key Match Ups: Looking at the numbers, it appears this will be another run-heavy approach for the Bears as that strength matches up with the Lions’ defensive weakness. The Bears as a team average 4.2 YPC while the LIons are surrendering 4.0 YPC.

That is, of course, assuming that the Bears offensive line can return to normal with Hroniss Grasu back on the bench and Kyle Long back on the field.

For Mitch Turbisky, when he does throw, he will need to be careful around Slay and Quin, the Lions’ most dangerous DBs. They can take away the ball and will surely be looking to pick on the rookie.

For the defense, Kyle Fuller will need to step up after a rough outing against the Packers and play well against Golden Tate. The pass rush will have to show up more than it did last week, especially with the chance that Lang could be out for Detroit.

On special teams they need to contain PR Jamal Agnew, who has two punt return touchdowns this year.

What to Watch for: The Lions have been up and down and there is a chance they let the Bears hang around.

The question will be, can the Bears play clean enough to stay in it or will their sloppy, uneven and flat play allow the Lions to pull away. The Bears haven’t played a great game all season, all of their wins were close and helped by opponent miscues and mistakes.

The Lions are a solid team and can put the Bears away if Chicago continues their bad habits.

Key Stats: The Lions haven’t had a 100-yard rusher since Reggie Bush in Week 13 of 2013. The Bears have had 19 games with a 100-yard rusher (10 by Howard, 9 by Forte)

The Lions are 3-1 on the road this season

The Bears are 3-1 in games I attend (I’ll be there Sunday)

The Bears rank 31st in passing yards per game while Detroit ranks 25 in passing yards allowed

What do the Bears need to do in order to win Sunday?