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Week 15 Game Preview: Bears-Lions

The Bears try for their second straight road win and get their first divisional victory of 2017

NFL: Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears haven’t won a game against an NFC North opponent since Halloween last year against the Vikings.

That’s right, it has been over a calendar year since the Bears won a game inside the division. That remains among the largest indictment for why John Fox should not be on the sideline for Chicago next season.

Fox is 3-13 inside the division overall and is 1-4 against the Lions.

Detroit Lions

SB Nation: Pride of Detroit

Record: 7-6 (Second in NFC North)

Last week: 24-21 over Tampa Bay on the road

Bears all-time record against: 97-73-5

Historical match ups: This will be the first meeting between the divisional foes to take place on a Saturday. The two teams have met four times on Dec. 16 however, with the Bears winning three of those games on that date.

They lost the last Dec. 16 meeting though, back in 1990, 38-21. Rodney Peete threw four touchdown passes. The Bears played three QBs that day: Jim Harbaugh, Mike Tomczak and Peter Tom Willis.

Back in 1984, the Bears defeated the Lions on Dec. 16, as former Lions QB Greg Landry started for the Bears in place of the injured Jim McMahon. It would be the 38-year-old Landry’s final NFL game. He threw three interceptions but also a touchdown to Willie Gault and rushed for another and the Bears won 30-13.

Last meeting: A 27-24 Bears loss in Week 11 at Soldier Field. Matthew Stafford threw two touchdowns and a solid game from Mitchell Trubisky, including a miraculous fourth down scramble to keep the drive alive, wasn’t enough as Conner Barth missed a 46-yard game winning field goal attempt in the waning seconds.

Injury report: The Lions listed 12 players on their Wednesday injury report:

  • WR T.J. Jones did not participate (not injury related)
  • G T.J. Lang did not participate (foot)
  • CB Nevin Lawson did not participate (illness)
  • C Travis Swanson did not participate (concussion)
  • T Rick Wagner did not participate (ankle)
  • DE Ezekiel Ansah was limited (ankle)
  • T Taylor Decker was limited (shoulder)
  • T Corey Robinson was limited (foot)
  • RB Ameer Abdullah had full participation (neck)
  • CB Jamal Agnew had full participation (knee)
  • T Emmett Cleary had full participation (ankle)
  • QB Matthew Stafford had full participation (hand)

Offense: The Lions offense ranks 14th in yards and fifth in points, averaging 26 points per game.

The passing offense ranks fourth in the league in terms of yards and has the sixth-most touchdowns with 23. They have the eighth-most pass attempts.

Stafford (3,683 yds./23 TD/9 INT) is leading the attack for the Lions and completing 65.6 percent of his passes along the way. Maybe he isn’t a top-end elite quarterback but he’s very good and won’t make things easy.

He’ll be throwing to receivers Golden Tate (79 rec./852 yds./4 TD), Marvin Jones (51/885/8), RB Theo Riddick (45/397/2), TE Eric Ebron (42/449/2) and WR T.J. Jones (27/373/0). All in all, the Lions have eight players with more than 15 receptions and six players with at least two touchdown receptions.

The rushing offense for Detroit, however lags well behind the passing game for them. The Lions are dead last in team rushing yards with 992 and are 30th in rushing attempts. Their eight rushing touchdowns rank 21st in the league.

Abdullah (150 attempts, 505 yards, three touchdowns) is the leading rusher but is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry and is spelled by Theo Riddick (64, 211, three) who is mainly used as a receiving back.

Defense: The Lions enter the game ranked 28th in points allowed and 27th in yards allowed.

They rank 27th in pass yards allowed but 11th in touchdown passes allowed and have the seventh most interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks have an 87.8 rating against them.

The rushing defense ranks 20th in rushing yards allowed but their 17 rushing touchdowns allowed is the second most in the league.

Detroit is 29th in red zone defense, with opponents finding a 63.8 success rate against them.

The big names for the Detroit defense include sack leaders Anthony Zettel (6.5), Ezekiel Ansah (six), tackle leaders Tahir Whitehead (65 tackles, three fumble recoveries, one INT), Jarrad Davis (50, one, zero) and interception leaders Darius Slay (five) and Glover Quin (three).

Quin also leads the team with three forced fumbles.

Key match ups: The biggest match up could be the Chicago pass rush and secondary against Stafford. The Lions have a potent passing game and without Pernell McPhee and Leonard Floyd, the Bears haven’t been able to pressure quarterbacks much.

If Stafford has time he will be able to pick apart the Bears secondary. Kyle Fuller can keep up with Golden Tate (Tate had three catches for 32 yards in their last meeting). But who will be slowing down Marvin Jones and T.J. Jones? Marvin had 85 yards and a touchdown during their last meeting while T.J. had 55 yards.

The Bears offensive line needs to play as well as they did against Cincinnati, where Trubisky was sacked only twice.

If they can keep their young quarterback clean, he should find openings against a defense that gives up a lot of yards through the air.

Last time they played, Jordan Howard had 125 yards and a touchdown while Tarik Cohen had 44 yards and a score. There should be running room.

What to watch for: Will the Bears continue their offensive growth they showed last week against an opponent that still has playoff hopes?

This could be a big week for the Bears to show some life as they slog toward the end of the season. Will they show some signs of life or turn back into the poorly coached team we have been used to seeing in 2017?

The last meeting between the two was a good game but perhaps now the Bears will be better equipped to hang with Detroit and actually, maybe, make a kick?

Key stats: The Bears had their second best offensive output against the Lions last time they played, putting up 398 yards of offense, second only to last week’s 482-yard effort against the Bengals.

The Bears haven’t had an offensive turnover in their last two games.

Chicago rushed for 222 yards against Detroit in Week 11, tied for their third-highest total on the season.

The Bears rank fifth on both offense and defense in red zone percentage.

Chicago hasn’t won at Ford Field since Week 17 in 2012, Lovie Smith’s final game as Bears coach.