The NFL’s Thanksgiving tripleheader starts off with a classic NFC North matchup when the Chicago Bears take on the Detroit Lions on CBS. Both the Bears (5-6) and the Lions (7-4) are jockeying for playoff positioning, as right now they are on the outside looking in at a potential Wild Card spot and trailing the division-leading Packers.
This will be the first of two meetings between these two teams (Week 16 in Chicago) and the 16th time they have faced each other on Thanksgiving Day. Chicago leads this Turkey Day series 8-7. The only team Detroit has faced more on Thanksgiving than Chicago is fellow division rival Green Bay (22 games, Lions are 13-8-1 vs. Packers).
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Detroit -7
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Chicago’s Key to Victory: Follow New England’s Game Plan
The Bears know full well what the Patriots are capable of, having been on the other end of a 53-21 beatdown in Foxboro back in Week 8. This past Sunday, it was the Lions’ turn, as Tom Brady shredded what was then the NFL’s No. 1 defense for 349 yards passing in a convincing 34-9 win. Prior to this game the most points Detroit had allowed were 24 and the 439 yards of total offense also were a season high. Now no one is going to mistake Jay Cutler for Brady or Chicago’s offense for New England’s, but the Bears would be to wise to put together a pass-heavy game plan. For one, Detroit is tops in rushing defense (70.7 ypg) but 10th in passing defense (233.1 ypg). Secondly, in the Lions’ seven wins only one opponent (New Orleans) has thrown for more than 204 yards. Compare that to the 300 yards passing teams have averaged in Detroit’s four losses. Chicago enters this game 14th in passing offense (246.1 ypg), which is lower than New England (sixth) but higher than Arizona, Carolina and Buffalo, the three other teams Detroit has lost to. In wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, tight end Martellus Bennett and running back Matt Forté, the Bears do match up with the Patriots when it comes to pass-catching weapons. Provided Cutler makes the right decisions and the offensive line holds up against a relentless pass rush, the pieces appear to be in place for Chicago to at least try and follow New England’s blueprint. After all, it worked out pretty well for the Patriots.
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Detroit’s Key to Victory: Get Offensive
The Lions are 7-4 even though they are scoring less than 18 points per game, a total that places them 28th in the NFL. The defense has been doing most of the heavy lifting this season, holding opponents to a league-low 17.3 points per game and that’s after giving up 34 to the Patriots last week. Detroit hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 10, managing a total of five field goals in their past two games, losses to Arizona and New England. Even though the Lions aren’t scoring a ton of points, their disparity in wins and losses is still pretty glaring. In seven wins Detroit is averaging 23 points per game. In its four losses that number plummets to just nine. The running game has been inconsistent, but this is still an offense with a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback (Matthew Stafford) and an All-Pro wide receiver (Calvin Johnson) that finally has a suitable sidekick (Golden Tate). Chicago’s defense has had its share of issues this season. The Bears have given up 50 points on two different occasions and are currently tied with the lowly Jets for 30th in the league in points allowed (27.5 ppg). Points have been a problem lately for the Lions and should that trend continue, especially against a generous defense like Chicago’s, a once-promising season may finish on a disappointing note.
Chicago has won its last two games, Detroit has lost theirs. However, the Lions are still two games better than the Bears record-wise and their losses were to a pair of division leaders (Arizona and New England), while Chicago’s wins were against teams (Minnesota and Tampa Bay) that are a combined 6-16. Detroit’s offense has struggled recently, but the Lions have a significant edge on defense. Jay Cutler has played pretty well against Detroit in his career, but I’m not sure the Bears’ offensive line will be able to hold up against the Lions’ disruptive front four. Chicago hangs around, but the Bears’ defense won’t be able to contain Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, as the Motor City’s new dynamic duo propels the Lions to a much-needed victory.