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Week 12 Game preview: Bears vs. Lions

I feel like we just saw these guys?

Carolina Panthers v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

On one of the shortest turnarounds ever, the Bears have to go on the road and play the Detroit Lions after finishing their game against Minnesota some 85 hours earlier in Chicago.

This won’t be easy and it certainly isn’t being made any easier with word that there is a real possibility that QB Mitchell Trubisky could be out with a shoulder injury.

With just 11 days between their meetings, both teams should be pretty familiar with one another, but sometimes short turnarounds favor the losing team of the first contest.

It will be a tough test for the Bears, especially with a back up QB that has two career starts But on the bright side, he has spent a long time in Matt Nagy’s system.

What’s what with the Lions?

Detroit Lions

SB Nation site: Pride of Detroit

Game day/time/TV: Thursday, 11:30 a.m. CT, CBS

Record: 4-6

Last week: 20-19 win over the Carolina Panthers at home.

Bears all-time record against: 98-74-5

Historical match ups: The Bears and Lions last met on Thanksgiving in 2014.

In a 34-17 Lions win, Calvin Johnson exploded for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Bears scored 14 points in the first quarter but they surrendered 21 second quarter points.

Last meeting: A 34-22 Bears win just 11 days ago (two NFL weeks)

Offense: The Lions come into Chicago with an offense ranking 20th in points scored and 24th in yards.

Detroit has the 18th ranked passing offense in terms of yards and the 24th ranked rushing offense.

Led by Matthew Stafford (65.8 completion/2,605 yds./17 TD/9 INT), the Lions are below average, but he’s playing his usual brand of solid, but unspectacular football. Every year he manages to throw for about 25 touchdowns, 4,000 yards and about 10 interceptions, but never manages to wow anyone. It is the most bland 4,000/25/10 stat line you’ve ever seen.

Catching those passes are WRs Kenny Golladay (47 rec./714 yds./5 TDs), who had 6 catches for 78 yards and a TD two weeks ago against Chicago and Marvin Jones (35/508/5), but might not be able to go and RBs Theo Riddick (41/264/0) and Kerryon Johnson (32/213/1). Johnson is hurt also and could miss the game. TE Michael Roberts is a redzone threat (6/84/3).

In the ground game they will be without the rookie Johnson (118 att./641 yds./3 TD) who is averaging 5.4 YPC. He suffered a knee injury Sunday. Behind him is LeGarrette Blount (78/183/3).

Defense: The Lions defense is ranked 19th in yards allowed and 24th in points against.

The Lions passing defense has taken a hit since their last meeting, when they came in ranking fourth. They now are at 13th. Missing Darius Slay against the Bears was big.

They have allowed 22 passing TDs, including five in their last two games (of course Mitch had three of those). The Lions have just four interceptions and opposing QBs hold a 116.1 rating against them. Their ranking is highly influenced by the lack of pass attempts against them.

While their passing defense numbers have gotten worse in the last two games, their rushing defense has improved. They have gone from allowing an average of 5.1 yards per carry two weeks ago to 4.8 and improved from 30th in rushing yards allowed to 24th. They have allowed just 55 rushing yards per game and two TDs the last two weeks.

Ezekiel Ansah is up to three sacks on the year. Among their top sackers they’re led by DE Romeo Okwara (5 sacks/6 TFL/8 QB hits), LB Devon Kennard (6 sacks/7 TFL/12 QB hits) and MLB Jarrad Davis (4 sacks/5 TFL/7 QB hits).

They have several players with two or three sacks.

In the defensive backfield they are led by CB Darius Slay (2 INTs/9 PDs), DB Quandre Diggs (1 INT/5 PD/2 TFL) and Glover Quinn.

Injury report: The Lions listed nine players on their Tuesday injury report, which, it should be noted, is based on an estimation if they would have practiced).

Did not participate: RB Kerryon Johnson (knee), WR Marvin Jones (knee)

Limited: DE Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder), WR Bruce Ellington (back), DT Damon Harrison (shoulder), LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (neck), TE Michael Roberts (shoulder), DT A’Shawn Robinson (ankle), CB Darius Slay (knee)

Key match ups: This one hasn’t changed much in two games.

When the Lions have run the ball successfully, they have won games, but when they’ve struggled, they can’t win. The Bears don’t need to shutdown Kerryon Johnson but they do need to limit LaGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick.

Further, Stafford was sacked just once against the Panthers, but we know what the Bears did a couple weeks ago (six sacks) and Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks have been playing well.

On offense, getting Chase Daniel (or Mitch) into a rhythm early is going to help. Getting the ground game going would help too, but there isn’t a ton of evidence that that is going to suddenly work.

Allen Robinson balled out a couple of weeks ago with Slay sidelined, but he should be back so I am looking for another WR to step up. Taylor Gabriel was shutout against Detroit in Chicago and something tells me he’ll want a chance to redeem himself.

Trey Burton is going to be a nice security blanket for Daniel, although the back up QB might have more of a rapport with Ben Braunecker.

What to watch for: The Bears could afford a letdown game, but no one wants to see that. Getting a road win in a tough spot (short week, weird holiday game day) with their back up would certainly be a confidence boost and let the team enjoy an extended rest before they go on the road to face New York.

The Lions have been up and down and this is a chance for the Bears to put them away for good and really show that they can win in all types of situations.

Key stats: In their three victories, the Lions have averaged 148.7 rushing yards. In their six losses, that’s dropped to 68.2 yards.

Matt Stafford had his second worst game of the season against the Bears 11 days ago. It would have been much worse, had it not been for two late TD passes.

Before two weeks ago, the last Bears quarterback to beat the Lions was back up Brian Hoyer, in week four of 2016.

The last time the Bears won on Thanksgiving in Detroit was Nov. 25, 1993 with Jim Harbaugh at QB. Chicago won 10-6.

The last time the Bears won a road division game was Thanksgiving 2015, against the Packers.

Marc Trestman and John Fox never won a game as Bears head coach at Ford Field.

My pick: I am riding with the Bears, back up or not, 24-21. To see how this measures up against the spread click here to read my pick on Sports Bet Collective (the first game pick is free when you create an account)

Do you think the Bears can win on a short week with their back up?