The Bears have the opportunity to notch their first win against a divisional opponent since Week 12 of the 2021 season this Sunday when they take on the Lions at Ford Field. That game in 2021 was a 16-14 battle of attrition between the 3-7 Bears and the 0-9-1 Lions. This game will look much different– at least on one side. The Bears once again enter this game with a 3-7 record, but the Lions have turned their fortunes around in two seasons and sit atop the NFC North at 7-2.
This will be the toughest game for the Bears since flying out to Los Angeles to play the Chargers at the end of October, and a win would be an instant signature game for head coach Matt Eberflus. The Under Center podcast crew explained why they think the Bears will, or will not, leave Detroit with a W.
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This is not your father's Detroit kitties. These guys are Big Cats! The Bears have one of the best rush defenses in the NFL. Now they face one of the best rushing teams, with the best tandem of running backs in David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs, along with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Add to this offense one of the best play callers in the NFL in Ben Johnson. The Bears play the Lions twice in the next four weeks. I mention this because usually against a division rival, regardless of record, you can find a split when it comes to victories. But the Lions are the best team in the NFC North. Even with the Bears’ improved play it is hard for me to pick them in either game. Justin Fields’ return may be the only way the Bears can upset a heavily favored Lions team.
Justin Fields’ return should give the Bears a little extra juice heading into their Week 11 tilt with the Detroit Lions. Fields’ return gives the Bears an added element and increased upside against a defense that is ranked ninth in total defense and third in run defense. The best way to attack the Lions’ defense is through the air, so expect a heavy dose of DJ Moore in Detroit. How effective and accurate Fields is with a still-healing right thumb will determine if the Bears are able to hang in this one or get rolled over like their last trip to Detroit.
While Fields’ re-emergence will get most of the attention Sunday, it’s the matchup on the other side of the ball that has my attention. The Bears’ defense is fourth in the NFL in scoring and first in run defense over the last six games. The Lions’ offense ranks in the top five in both rushing and passing. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is coming off an elite performance in which his offense hung 41 on the Los Angeles Chargers. David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs form a potent backfield tandem, while Amon-Ra St. Brown and rookie tight end Sam LaPorta give quarterback Jared Goff two dynamic weapons to attack with downfield. The Bears’ defense believes it has found something over the last month. They stymied offenses led by Brian Hoyer and Bryce Young but were blistered by Justin Herbert and the Chargers.
The Lions are an elite offense, and the Bears haven’t shown they can stop those yet.
Lions 31, Bears 20
The Bears have played much better football over the last month than they did over the first month of the season. But you’ve got to consider the competition they’ve faced. Wins against the lowly Panthers and Raiders are important in the quest to not finish as the worst team in football for a second year in a row. They’re not wins that instill confidence that the team can hang with the best in the game, however, and the Lions have proven time and again that they’re one of the best in the league.
On offense, the Lions field an incredibly balanced attack. Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery are one of the best running back tandems in the league. Each man has made numerous explosive plays throughout the year, and it seems inevitable that at least one of them will have a huge game each and every week. Jared Goff has proven last year was not a fluke and has established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Too often Goff gets hit with the “reliable” or “game manager” tag, but really he’s a playmaker in offensive coordinator Ben Johnson’s system. Goff ranks fifth in passing yards this year (2,507), tied for seventh in yards per attempt (7.7) and ninth in completion percentage (68.4%). Part of the reason he’s been so good is that the Lions have a bonafide WR1 in Amon-Ra St. Brown and struck gold with rookie tight end Sam LaPorta. Between the RBs, St. Brown and LaPorta, defenses can’t focus too heavily on any one area or they’ll get burned in another.
The Lions’ real strength comes in the trenches, both on offense and defense. Goff has only been sacked 15 times this season, so the Bears pass rush that has just started to show signs of life will have a tough time creating pressure. Meanwhile, defensive end Aidan Hutchison has been one of the most disruptive players in the league. Don’t let his ho-hum 4.5 sacks fool you. Hutchison’s 52 total pressures are tied for third-best in the NFL among all defensive players, behind only Myles Garrett’s 58 and Micah Parsons’ 53. Hutchison’s 19% pass rush win rate is 13th best among all defensive players with at least 150 pass rush snaps. The Bears recently reshuffled their OL unit to work Nate Davis back in at right guard, which included a move for Teven Jenkins back to left guard. Will everyone be able to settle in quickly to mitigate the damage Hutchison can cause?
The Bears have steadily improved enough this year for me to confidently say they’re not the worst team in the NFL anymore. Getting Justin Fields back makes them even better. But they’re not improved enough to win on the road against a legit playoff contender.
Lions: 31, Bears: 18