Here’s something that’s a little bit bittersweet: we’re already halfway through the NFL regular season.
That’s the bitter part. The sweet part is that the Bears are 5-3, their best record through eight games since 2013, which means that there will actually be relevant games involving the Bears through the latter half of the schedule.
It also means that there is a chance that the Bears season isn’t halfway over. That’s right, there’s legitimate playoff hopes to talk about with the Bears.
But in order to get to the postseason they will likely have to win the division. It’s at least the easiest path to the postseason and could be the only since the NFC South looks like it could potentially have three playoff caliber teams in the Saints, Falcons and Panthers.
It all starts with the Lions, who have had the Bears number for the past five seasons. The Bears need to change their division fortunes to make the postseason for the first time in eight years.
According to Adam Hoge, the Bears are 6-24 against the NFC North since 2013. They are 1-9 against the Lions in that time. That’s right, the Bears have more wins against the Packers (2-9) than the Lions.
The Bears have also dropped three straight to Detroit.
Hopefully that will change for the Bears starting Sunday. If not, it could be another season out of the playoffs.
SB Nation site: Pride of Detroit
Game day/time/TV: Sunday, noon CT, FOX
Last week: 24-9 loss at the Minnesota Vikings. Matthew Stafford was sacked 10 times and the Lions were held out of the endzone.
Bears all-time record against: 97-74-5
Historical match ups: I mentioned the Bears struggles against the Lions in recent years above, but the thing is, most of those match ups were decided by less than a touchdown.
Seven of the 10 were decided by six or fewer points. Nine of the 10 were decided by 10 or fewer.
Last November, the Bears hosted the Lions at Soldier Field. Yours truly was in attendance and the rookie Mitch Trubisky valiantly drove the team down field, with an impressive fourth-and-long scramble for a first down:
Here is my video, complete with me screaming like an idiot! pic.twitter.com/TUh3PvJkH1— Sam Householder (@SamHouseholder) July 19, 2018
He got them to the Detroit 28 yard line with eight seconds left, just enough time for a last second field goal when...
“Annnnd...not even close. Holy Moses.” What a great, awful call. I’d post my video but it has a lot of WCG-Open Thread language on it and this is not an open thread.
Thankfully, that was Barth’s last game as a Bear.
Last meeting: Then, about a month later, on Dec. 16, the Lions beat the Bears 20-10 in Detroit. It was arguably Trubisky’s worst game as a Bear.
He threw three interceptions and was only bailed out by a garbage time TD pass to Benny Cunningham.
Offense: The Lions come into Chicago with an offense ranking 20th in points scored and 21st in yards.
Detroit has the 20th ranked passing offense in terms of yards and the 20th ranked rushing offense.
Led by Matt Stafford (67.8 completion/2,111 yds./14 TD/6 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 (33 rec./523 yds./3 TDs) and Marvin Jones (32/453/5) and RBs Theo Riddick (30/174/0) and Kerryon Johnson (24/165/0). TE Michael Roberts is a redzone threat (5/75/3).
In the ground game they are led by rookie Johnson (89 att./503 yds./1 TD) who is averaging 5.7 YPC. If he gets going, watch out. Behind him is LeGarrette Blount (65/178/3).
Defense: The Lions defense is ranked 18th in yards allowed and 23rd in points against.
The Lions boast a top flight passing defense, ranked fourth in the league, allowing just 1,717 yards on 222 attempts, the fewest faced in the league.
While those numbers seem good, they have allowed 16 passing TDs and have just three interceptions and opposing QBs hold a 112.6 rating against them. Their ranking is highly influenced by the lack of pass attempts against them.
Their rushing defense, on the other hand, ranks 30th, allowing an average of 5.1 yards per carry. They have allowed opponents a total of 1,140 rushing yards and six TDs.
Ezekiel Ansah is just coming back from an injury, and he has two sacks on the year, one in each of the games he’s played. Among their top sackers they’re led by DE Romeo Okwara (5 sacks/6 TFL/8 QB hits), LB Devon Kennard (5 sacks/6 TFL/9 QB hits) and MLB Jarrad Davis (3 sacks/3 TFL/6 QB hits).
They have several players with two or three sacks.
In the defensive backfield they are led by CB Darius Slay (2 INTs/7 PDs/2 TFL), DB Quandre Diggs (1 INT/4 PD) and Glover Quinn.
Injury report: The Lions listed eight players on their Wednesday report.
Did not participate: G T.J. Lang (neck), CB Darius Slay (knee)
Limited: LB Eli Harold (shoulder), DE Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder), LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (neck), RB LeGarrette Blount (knee), RB Kerryon Johnson (ankle), TE Luke Wilson (shoulder)
Key match ups: The battle of the trenches could go a long way to deciding this one.
When the Lions have run the ball successfully, they have won games, but when they’ve struggled, they can’t win. If the Bears can shut down Kerryon Johnson, it will go a long way toward helping them get established.
Further, Stafford was sacked 10 times a week ago and we know what the Bears pass rush looks like when Mack is healthy and he should be back this week. That can get Akiem Hicks, Roy Robertson-Harris and some of the others going as well.
On offense, getting Jordan Howard going against a generous Lions front will help their game going and open things up down field. Tarik Cohen should be able to get going as well.
If Slay is banged up, that will help Allen Robinson get open, but should the Bears get Adam Shaheen back and establish the run, he could be getting open behind the LBs if they sell out to defend the run.
This should be a game for the Bears to lean on their run game.
What to watch for: The Bears need to defeat their division foes and continue to protect their home field if they want to have a winning record and get to the postseason.
The Lions have been up and down and this is a chance for the Bears to put away an opponent that’s troubled them and establish them as the team to beat in the NFC North.
Key stats: In their three victories, the Lions have averaged 167 rushing yards. In their five losses, that’s dropped to 66.6 yards.
Matt Stafford is 10-6 against the Bears with 26 touchdowns and 17 interceptions
The Lions have lost 11 turnovers, while the Bears have forced 21.
The last Bears quarterback to beat the Lions was Brian Hoyer, in week four of 2016. Kevin White had a career high six catches for 55 yards and Jordan Howard ran for 111 yards in a 17-14 win.
Since throwing four interceptions in week one, Stafford has thrown just two in the seven games since.
Prediction: I have the Bears down for a 31-17 win. For my pick against the spread and the total, click here to see my post on Sports Bet Collective.
Do you think the Bears can win Sunday?