The 3-4-1 Detroit Lions head to Chicago to square off against the 3-5 Bears this week in what will be a battle of the third- and fourth-place teams in the NFC North. The Bears have lost four straight heading into the contest, while the Lions have dropped four of their last five, including one-possession losses to the Chiefs, Packers, and Raiders.
Neither of these two NFC North foes has lived up to preseason expectations this year. The Bears’ highly-touted defense has been tough, but Mitchell Trubisky and the offense have struggled mightily. Matt Stafford and his offense are third in the league in passing yards per game, but the Lions have put a historically bad defense on the field with him.
You could almost say this is a battle of polar opposites. If the Bears had the Lions’ offense or vice versa, you could create a heck of a team out of these two. The Lions are 5-2 against the spread in their last seven road games, while the Bears are 1-4 against the spread in their last five. Somehow, playing at home, with a lights-out defense, the Bears are favored by 2.5, while the over/under sits at a semi-modest 42.5.
Nagy, Trubisky Must Step Up
Bears head coach Matt Nagy was looking forward to the high expectations put on his team heading into the season. Nagy turned the franchise around a season ago, as they went from 5-11 in 2017 to 12-4 and a playoff berth in 2018. Nagy went on to win AP NFL Coach of the Year, but it was a Cody Parkey chip-shot field-goal attempt that rimmed out that Nagy would remember most.
Aside from their pretty phenomenal defense, every other aspect of the Bears team has seemed to deflate since that kick. They rank 27th in points and 29th in yards per game, while their defense ranks sixth and ninth in points and yards per game allowed. Rather than making excuses and getting snarky with the press, Nagy needs to focus on his offense, and what they can and can’t do.
It’s obvious what the offense can’t do, and it’s throw the ball. However, the Bears’ rushing attack is eighth in the league in yards per game and fourth in yards per attempt. The Bears need to let their playmaking running backs, David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen, carry the load. Run the ball and check it down to Cohen in space, and let them work.
The Opposite End of the Spectrum
The 2019 Lions’ offense has done what Stafford and his offenses have typically done during his career. They’re airing it out and letting Stafford’s receivers carry the offense. The Lions passing attack is ranked third in yards and second in touchdowns league-wide, while their rushing attack is ranked a lowly 21st. Fairly typical for the teams that Stafford has led in years past.
When head coach Matt Patricia came over from the Patriots after serving as the team’s defensive coordinator for six seasons, it was a season like the current one for the Lions that he was supposed to put an end to. While all of Patricia’s defenses at New England weren’t always ranked near the top of the league, he always had timely defenses. The kind that step up when the team needs them most, or the exact opposite of what he’s currently coaching in Detroit.
The Lions rank 30th in the NFL in third-down stops. Opposing teams have converted on third down 48.1 percent of the time. While the Bears offense is only ranked 28th in third-down conversions, this is an area they need to step it up this Sunday. The Lions defense ranks 27th overall and allows over 27 points per game. If the Bears offense is going to show up, now would be the time, at home, against a rival with a poor defense.
Exactly What You Expect of NFL Pick
I believe what you’re going see in this matchup is exactly what you’d expect: A good Bears defense will slow Matt Stafford and the boys down, but not completely shut him out. A bad Lions defense will look better against a worse offense, but I’m sure the Bears will catch a piece of action offensively as well.
The recent history of what the Bears and Lions have done within the division comes into play here as does what they have both done against the spread this season. The NFL pick here is the Detroit Lions. The Bears will have a tough time keeping up with Stafford and the Lions cover with ease.