The Bears’ meeting with the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field is as close to a true must-win game as the team has faced in the Matt Nagy era.
While the perception is that the Lions are a tough and competitive 0-3, the reality is they played a quarter and a half against the 49ers after San Francisco went on cruise control, and they disappeared in the second half against the Packers.
In each of the first three weeks, the Rams, Bengals and Browns could dictate what the Bears had to do to win. This week, the Bears are in the driver’s seat. If they figure out how to execute their own plan, the Lions are unlikely to stop it.
The Bears are 3-point favorites, and the over/under is 42.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Lions OLB Tre Flowers, DL Michael Brockers and OLB Charles Harris vs. Bears RT Germain Ifedi and the rest of the O-line
There were problems up and down the line last week in Cleveland, but Ifedi was the weakest link, and Detroit’s rookie defensive coordinator certainly has studied the tape. Expect Flowers to move around, but he is the Lions’ only “professional pass rusher” and is sure to get multiple cracks at Ifedi.
Brockers is a good interior tackle who will have to be neutralized, and although Harris has been a failed first-round pick his first four seasons in Miami and Atlanta, he does have two sacks in the first three games.
COACHING DECISION TO WATCH
Who will start at quarterback for the Bears, and how will they protect him?
Nagy’s decision to hide who is starting at quarterback and who actually is calling the plays smacks of panic.
I refuse to believe Nagy and QBs Andy Dalton and Justin Fields don’t know who will start.
Offensive tackle Jason Peters explained to us a week or two ago how different it can be pass protecting for Dalton versus Fields. Is it really possible after the disaster last week that Nagy forced them to split their practice time on different techniques, timing and play calls?
If his shenanigans don’t result in a win, there may be no more safety net, making it really curious why he’d put all his eggs in this basket.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Lions RB D’Andre Swift, TE T.J. Hockenson and CB A.J. Parker; Bears QB Justin Fields, TEs Jimmy Graham and Cole Kmet
Swift and Hockenson are the only weapons on the Lions’ offense that have to be identified at all times. Any NFL offensive player is a threat to make a big play at any time, but if you’re worried about a guy who can actually beat you mostly by himself, they’re the two to watch.
Parker is the corner the Bears are most likely to try to pick on.
Even if Dalton does try to go, the “Fields’ package” still will be a factor, and either QB finding his M.I.A. tight ends could be the offensive ingredient missing the first three weeks.
Lions WRs Kalif Raymond, Quintez Cephus and Trinity Benson; Bears QBs Andy Dalton and Justin Fields
What, you’ve never heard of Raymond, Cephus and Benson? They’re one, two and three at wideout for Jared Goff. They shouldn’t be able to beat the Bears’ secondary, but ...
Obviously, Dalton and Fields speaks for itself.
WILD-CARD PLAYERS WHO COULD SURPRISE
Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, RB Jamaal Williams, DE Nick Williams
St. Brown is a promising youngster and Dan Campbell hopes the future of his receiving corps. Jamaal Williams once was a No. 1 at Green Bay and is capable of big plays. Nick Williams you should remember from his time here, and he could end up in the quarterback’s lap on occasion.
THE FINAL WORD
Bears 30, Lions 16
Bears players are embarrassed and simmering over the mess in Cleveland. There is more than enough talent and anger on defense and in the running game for the Bears to come out and put one on the Lions regardless of the quarterback, or their coaches. The sideshow of Nagy’s shenanigans is unlikely to help generate a win. Hopefully the additional distractions won’t cause a loss.