The first place Chicago Bears (5-3) will host the last place Detroit Lions (3-5) this Sunday in the first of two meetings within 3 weeks. Starting the second half of the season the Bears are looking to prove to everyone that they are for real about contending in this division while the Lions are trying to get back on track after two weeks of embarrassing losses to the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings. Most of the blame can be thrown on the offense for those two games so let’s jump right into it.
The Lions stumbled out of the gate when they were absolutely destroyed by the abysmal New York Jets on opening night 48-17. It was a game where Matthew Stafford threw four interceptions and the offense looked like a shell of what they normally bring to the table. They would eventually figure it out in the coming weeks, sort of. They had an impressive win over the New England Patriots 26-10, but that game was mainly dominated by the defense.
They put together back to back weeks of 30 plus points in beating the Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins, but have only scored 23 points combined in their last two contests. They are looking to right the ship, but it will not be easy this week as the Bears boast a top 5 defense only allowing 19.1 points a game.
Matthew Stafford is still an elite quarterback in this league, but he is not having the best season thus far. He still has solid numbers with 2,111 yards, 14 touchdowns, and just six interceptions. Stafford has been mainly successful against the Bears, however. In 16 career games against the Bears, he is 10-6. He has 26 touchdowns to go with 17 interceptions in those games good for a rating of 87.3. While the Lions offense has not been too dangerous as of late, Stafford should not hold all of that blame. This will definitely be a bigger challenge for the Bears coming off of dominating Nathan Peterman for 60 minutes.
The Lions have a run game! If I had a nickel for every time I put that down on paper I’d have, well, a nickel. Second round rookie Kerryon Johnson has been a breath of fresh air to an offense that hasn’t been able to run the football for what seems like forever. He became the Lions first 100-yard rusher since 2013 when he rushed for 101 yards in a victory over the Patriots. Through eight games he has 503 yards, but just one score. We all know the Bears are stingy about giving up rushing touchdowns as well so they will look to keep him out of the end zone. He combines nice moves in space with sneaky power. He is not afraid to run through you as Jeff Heath found out here:
Kerryon Johnson truck sticks Jeff Heath 😵 pic.twitter.com/DQi2nhKbrx
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) September 30, 2018
The backfield also has Theo Riddick who is always a threat out of the backfield and LeGarrette Blount who can still convert in short yardage situations. Overall this is a backfield that boasts some playmakers and should not be taken lightly of by no means. If the running game is able to find some success, this offense will not be fun to defend.
The Lions recently traded their best receiver in Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles for a third-round pick. Tate was an enormous part of this offense and his absence has already been noticed after just one week. Stafford was dealing with constant pressure last week and normally looks for Tate in those circumstances as his security blanket. The Lions will now look for more production out of Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay.
Jones can provide some big plays as he has a history of making tough catches over defenders. Golladay can also make plays as he started the season hot with 27 catches, 428 yards, and three touchdowns through the first five games. However, he has been irrelevant as of late averaging just two catches a game and has not found the end zone in three weeks.
Luke Wilson is the starting tight end but is not much of a threat as he comes into this game with just 11 catches for 75 yards and no touchdowns. This is an offense that does not see much production come from the tight end position. Michael Roberts doesn’t have many catches with only five, but three of those are touchdowns. He provides what very little they have to offer in the red zone.
The offensive line from left to right is as follows: Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, T.J Lang, and Rick Wagner. T.J Lang got a little banged up last week, but eventually returned to the game. It does not look like he will start this game in which case Kenny Wiggins will most likely get the start at guard. This is a much-improved unit, despite the 10 sacks given up a week ago to the Vikings. The Lions are right in the middle of the pack at number 15 with 23 sacks allowed.
Again, if you take away the 10 given up last week this line looks much better on paper. With that being said though, they did give up 10 sacks a week ago and the Bears should see Khalil Mack return to action this week so they are going to be pinning their ears back trying to find Stafford early and often. Here is a look at all 10 sacks given up last week:
Here you go #Vikings Twitter. Every sack from today vs. the #Lions an absolutely dominating performance. Some sacks came off stunts, others just great coverage and relentlessness by our D Line and then some is just the front 4 overpowering their OL. Enjoy! #Skol #SkolChant #nfl pic.twitter.com/cTFsyVcqJe
— Matt Anderson (@manderson92) November 5, 2018
The offensive coordinator of the Lions, Jim Bob Cooter, has been the name flirting with the hot seat as of late. Lions fans are outraged that they are not putting up any points and pointing the finger mainly at Cooter. His offense has become quite predictable as of late. The Lions are especially bad in the red zone ranking 29th in touchdowns and only coming away with six points on roughly 44% of their trips. That is simply not going to get the job done in this league.
I mentioned that the Lions have found a running game for the first time in years. This obviously works because they have found a good back in Johnson, but the blocking up front also plays a huge role. The Lions have gone to a more man blocking run game under Cooter than the previous zone-blocking scheme we have seen under Joe Lombardi and it looks to be paying dividends. The left side of the line is particularly strong and is where most of their big runs come from. They are not running over everyone by no means, but they are averaging a hair over 100 yards a game so they are respectable at the very least.
The running backs out of the backfield has been a staple of this offense and has had success, but can also become predictable as mentioned above. This video illustrates the issue:
This has to infuriate you if you're a #Lions fan because of how predictable JBC's offense is. Darron Lee points out exactly where the ball is going and hops right in front of Theo Riddick to take an INT home for six. How does the QB see this and not audible out of it? pic.twitter.com/3xBMjgbUmL
— Anthony Broome (@anthonytbroome) September 12, 2018
The idea of this play is to run the slot receiver across the face of the linebacker in hopes of drawing him with him to open up the angle route for the running back out of the backfield. However, as pointed out in the tweet, Darron Lee sees this coming and does not go with the receiver, but instead sits on the angle route, makes the pick, and takes it back to the house. The immediate pressure in Stafford’s face does not allow him to hold on to the ball and find the receiver late and the offense pays the price ultimately.
Matchup the Lions can exploit: Theo Riddick vs. Bears linebackers in coverage
Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan are doing a fine job patrolling the middle of the field for the Bears defense. However, there are times that the defense finds themselves with an outside linebacker covering a running back out of the backfield and it often ends up in trouble for them. This was put on full display against the Patriots where Leonard Floyd found himself covering James White on too many occasions. It did not end well for Floyd:
— Chicago Bears Film Room (@bears_film) October 23, 2018
Riddick is one of the best-receiving backs out of the backfield and if he finds himself with a pass rusher covering him, it is going to be easy money.
Matchup the Bears can exploit: pass rush vs. banged-up offensive line
As mentioned earlier, T.J Lang left the Vikings game with an injury and did not practice Wednesday either. His replacement, Kenny Wiggins has just a grade of 47.7 according to Pro Football Focus. With Lang being a long shot to play, the Bears can be looking at a matchup of Akiem Hicks vs. Wiggins which I’m sure will have them feeling confident.
Left tackle Taylor Decker does not look like his normal self as of late, maybe due to injury, and right tackle Rick Wagner has been dominated more times than not. After surrendering 10 sacks to the Vikings last week, it does not get any easier facing the Bears pass rush. With the expected return of Khalil Mack, the Bears will look to provide heavy pressure on Stafford for the second straight week.
This is the first of a stretch of division games for the Bears and it will be huge to come away with a win at home. The defense should not have a very difficult time containing this Lions offense, so if the offense can produce just enough then the Bears should be 6-3 looking ahead to the Minnesota Vikings.
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