Lions look to snap four-game losing streak to NFC North rivals
The Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions will kick off the 2020 NFL season against one another in what should be another, hard-hitting NFC North matchup, also known as the "Black and Blue" division. Both teams come into this challenging season with something to prove. The Bears are looking to rebound after falling below expectations in 2019, while the Lions are looking to finally turn the corner under Matt Patricia. This will be the first time that both teams will experience significant hitting on the field as the coronavirus pandemic eliminated preseason games this year.
These teams had only been limited to a handful of full-contact practices over the summer. The Bears have won the last four meetings, but the Lions have a 9-5 series lead since 2013. Starting the year with a win is a must for both teams.
Chicago at Detroit
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 13 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Lions -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Quarterback showcase
Both teams' signal-callers will take the field on Sunday with huge chips on their shoulders. For the Bears, Mitchell Trubisky beat out Nick Foles for the starting job in training camp. Since then, the reaction has been largely negative. But not only do Trubisky's teammates insist that he's made the necessary improvements, but Foles has also been supportive of coach Matt Nagy's decision.
Trubisky is fighting for a new contract, and he'll have to earn that by having success on the field. Starting the season against the Lions could work in his favor. In five games against the Lions, Trubisky has completed 70.1 percent of his passes for 1,359 yards, 11 touchdowns, and four interceptions, with 86 rushing yards added for good measure. The Bears are 3-2 in those games. Trubisky will need every bit of that Motor City mojo if the Bears are going to win on Sunday.
As far as the Lions are concerned, Matthew Stafford (2,499 passing yards, 19 touchdowns in 2019) is chomping at the bit to play after missing the final eight games of last season due to injury. Before that, he hadn't missed a game since 2010. The injury was especially tough since the Lions were in the fight to be postseason contenders at 3-4-1. With Stafford on the shelf, Detroit finished on an eight-game losing streak. Stafford has plenty of offensive talent around him (Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola, T.J. Hockenson, Marvin Jones Jr., etc). And if he can stay healthy, the Lions have a chance in 2020.
2. Stacked at running back
Both teams have some depth in their backfields. The Bears only kept three running backs in the form of David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, and Ryan Nall. The Bears need this group to step up after these three combined for just 1,110 rushing yards last season. They believe that Montgomery is the long-term answer for the backfield. And considering they didn't keep a fourth running back on the active roster, perhaps there isn't too much concern about the groin injury that Montgomery sustained in training camp.
Cohen's production was down last year, but his versatility is still valuable. Nall, on the other hand, was given a roster spot because his special teams contributions couldn't be ignored. He's also used as a fullback in certain situations. And don't be surprised if wide receiver/kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson is used as a running back in the Bears' speed packages again.
Rookie D'Andre Swift may finally be the answer that the Lions have been looking for at running back. Swift will also have a strong supporting cast in third-year back Kerryon Johnson (1,044 career rushing yards), second-year man Ty Johnson (no relation, 382 yards from scrimmage last season), and recently signed veteran Adrian Peterson (NFL's fifth all-time leading rusher with 14,216 yards). But at this point in his career, Peterson's main contribution will probably be mentoring the younger players. However, if the Lions can have success on the ground, it'll make their potent passing offense much more dangerous.
3. Could defense steal the show?
The Bears defense was a top-10 unit last year and is projected to be so again this year. They'll be without Eddie Goldman, Jordan Lucas, and Artie Burns, but they still have a star-studded cast of Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith, Danny Trevethan, Kyle Fuller, and Eddie Jackson among others on this unit. Rookie Jaylon Johnson will immediately get his chance to live up to the hype as he'll start opposite of Fuller this week. The key for the Lions offense will be to keep Stafford upright.
The Lions defense ranked second-to-last in both sacks (28) and total defense (400.4 ypg) last year. They also finished 23rd in scoring defense (26.4 ppg), 14th in takeaways (18), and 21st in rushing defense (115.9 ypg). They're hoping that their recent investments in their younger talent will help improve this side of the ball. Detroit can certainly give itself a chance if it can exploit Trubisky's flaws and capitalize on them.
The offense will be productive on both sides. But in the end, the Bears' defense will be too much to handle. Their efforts will give them a close win in the Motor City.
Prediction: Bears 24, Lions 21
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.