The Bears and Lions are very much alike in one way, and yet very different in others.
All three of the Lions’ wins – and three of their four losses – have been by one score, and they blew a 17-point lead in Arizona with that one ending in a tie.
Four of the Bears’ five losses are by one score, as is one of their three wins.
Either of these teams could be 1-7 or 7-1.
Where they differ is the Lions have been good-to-very good on offense with quarterback Matthew Stafford having one of his best seasons, but they rank near the bottom of the league in every important defensive category.
You all know the tale of two phases with the Bears.
Sunday will be a classic strengths against weaknesses matchup, and the club that does better at what they do poorly will win this one.
Lions offense vs. Bears defense: The Lions come into Soldier Field Sunday ranking 5th in the NFL in total offense, 3rd throwing the football and 12th in points scored, while the Bears – even with some slippage on defense – are still 9th in total “D,” 14th vs. the pass and 6th in points allowed.
Stafford has hung up a 106.0 passer rating by throwing for 321 yards a game, with 19 TDs and only five picks, and third-year wideout Kenny Golladay out of Northern Illinois has emerged as one of the NFL’s top big-play threats (35-640-7 receiving).
Golladay is paired with Marvin Jones Jr., who’s posted 42-535-6, to form one of the more dangerous duos in the game, and Danny Amendola, a weapon in the slot with 31-376, and top pick T.J. Hockenson at tight end gives Stafford more targets to lean on.
The Lions offensive line is good, but not great, very strong at tackle with Taylor Decker and Ricky Wagner, but somewhat pedestrian inside – though center Frank Ragnow, drafted 18 spots ahead of James Daniels last year, shows great promise.
The Bears’ 8th-ranked run defense does create an advantage, as Detroit struggled to run the ball before Kerryon Johnson went down for the season, and his backup, Ty Johnson, has failed to impress.
The Bears’ pass rush had been somewhat dormant until sacking Carson Wentz four times last Sunday, and Stafford has been dumped 18 times this season.
Bears Offense vs. Lions Defense: Detroit ranks 31st in total defense, 27th vs. the run, 30th vs. the pass, 30th getting off the field on third down and 27th in points allowed, and that doesn’t tell the whole story, as this group played surprising well the first two or three weeks, but has been sliding downhill since.
The question is, will the Bears anemic offense to date be just the tonic the Lions “D” needs, or vice versa?
Adding to Detroit’s woes, safety Tracy Walker has been their top defender and was forced to miss last Sunday’s game in Oakland with a bum knee and his status for Sunday is uncertain, as is the health of DT Mike Daniels, who was brought in to be a force up front.
Damon “Snacks” Harrison is arguably the NFL’s top run stuffer, but has been battling a balky groin, and A’Shawn Robinson, another starting interior defender, is trying to play through an injured hand.
Detroit struggles mightily to rush the passer, and $66-million free agent Trey Flowers has led the charge with four sacks in his first eight games in Detroit, but hasn’t received much help, making him easy to target.
Cornerback Darius Slay is one of the game’s best and probably will shadow Allen Robinson all day long, but he is just back from a hamstring problem – definitely not an issue you want at corner.
If the Bears offense can’t get healthy here, it probably isn’t going to.
Special Teams: Matt Prater has one of the NFL’s biggest legs, and going outdoors has never bothered him. Eighty percent outside the 50 so far this season (5-of-6), he is one of the game’s most dangerous kickers, but punter Sam Martin, while dependable, is relatively average.
The Lions rank just 31st returning punts but 6th returning kickoffs, while the Bears are the NFL’s best return team, 1st bringing back punts and 4th on kickoffs.
Detroit earns a slight edge in coverage – 3rd vs. punts and 10th vs. kickoffs — while the Bears are 12th and 25th, respectively.
Coaches: Matt Patricia was one of the NFL’s bigger rookie disappointments last season, but seems to have found more solid footing this year, although he still has done nothing remarkable.
Matt Nagy is following an NFL Coach of the Year campaign as a rookie with a wicked sophomore slump.