The Bears split the regular-season series last year with the Detroit Lions – winning the season-opener, 27-23, before collapsing Week 13, 34-30. That loss would be the final one for their six-game losing streak.
The Lions underwent a bit of an offseason facelift, particularly at quarterback and head coach. After 12 seasons in Detroit, Matthew Stafford was shipped to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for former 2016 No. 1 overall pick, Jared Goff. Head coach Matt Patricia was fired and former New Orleans assistant Dan Campbell was hired to turn around a franchise in need of a major spark after Patricia’s arrival from New England proved futile.
The Bears, meanwhile, perhaps enter this week with the most to prove. After Justin Fields’ disastrous starting debut and Matt Nagy’s offensive scheme producing one of the worst performances seen in NFL history – one passing yard, six first downs and 47 total yards – the Bears arguably face an incredible amount of pressure to win.
Here are five things to watch on Sunday:
1. Who is calling plays? Nagy or Bill Lazor?
It’s the million dollar question that many await to see officially answered. While Nagy won’t publicly tip his hand, it’s very possible he’s handed the keys to his offensive coordinator in an attempt to spark what has shown to be, at best, a floundering offense thus far.
Ranking dead last in yardage and second-to-last in points scored is just the tip of the iceberg for an offense looking for any positives.
The Bears did see some moderate success when they switched it up last year for Mitch Trubisky. If Justin Fields starts, look for potentially more rollouts, play-action boots and quick throws than what he was asked to do last week. If Andy Dalton starts, there likely won’t be much schematic change.
2. Who starts at QB? Justin Fields or Andy Dalton?
Nagy told the media Friday that whoever starts at quarterback will officially be a “game-time decision”. Andy Dalton is still nursing a left knee sprain and has been limited in practice all week. Dalton is officially listed as questionable, while Fields (right thumb) has been a full participant and has no technical status attached to his availability for Sunday.
Nagy has previously said Dalton, when healthy, is the starter. But, plan on Fields getting his second consecutive start, barring a unforeseen setback between now and game time; unless Dalton is truly good to go and Nagy wants to keep the Lions guessing.
3. Bears OL getting help from TEs and RBs
This goes relatively hand-in-hand with the offensive play calls, but after surrendering nine sacks last week, it’s conceivable the game plan will offer more help than a simple five-man protection. The Lions don’t feature the same pass-rush matchup issues as the Browns did, but Trey Flowers, Michael Brockers and Romeo Okwara – all limited in practice through Thursday – can cause some pressure and need to be accounted for.
4. Lions LT Penei Sewell vs. Bears OLBs Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn
Sewell, the prized rookie first-round left tackle, hasn’t allowed a sack yet through three games. How Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai schemes up Quinn and Mack, who is questionable for Sunday, will be interesting. Mack, who still played well in the second half of last week with a foot injury, can affect the pass rush in multiple ways. Quinn, clearly in a resurgence with a team-high 3.5 sacks, is off to a fantastic start. The Bears left Cleveland last week with five sacks of their own, and that starts with their two most expensive pass-rushers.
5. Bears DL vs. Lions RB D’Andre Swift
Swift has yet to really takeoff for the Lions this season with just 123 rushing yards and one touchdown, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the talent to turn that around in a hurry. The Bears have allowed 119.3 rushing yards per game.
A huge addition could be nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who has battled a knee injury and is yet to appear this season. Goldman does not have a status designation for his availability on Friday’s injury report. Goldman has practiced in full for two days and could conceivably get his first start of the season.