Bears getting healthy to face Lions in key NFC North matchup
After playing the entire AFC East over the last four weeks, the Chicago Bears return to division play this weekend when they welcome the Detroit Lions to Solider Field. The first-place Bears (5-3) haven't played a NFC North team since their season-opening loss in Green Bay. The Lions (3-5) are 1-1 in divisional play thus far.
The Bears pounded the Buffalo Bills 41-9 last week, and they’ll be getting some of their injured players back this week. The Lions, however, have lost their last two games and scored only 23 total points in those two games. The Bears look to maintain their post at the top of the division, while the Lions are fighting to salvage their season. While the Bears are a much improved team this year, they haven’t beaten the Lions since Week Four of the 2016 campaign.
The Bears held the Bills to just nine points even though they were without linebacker Kahlil Mack and defensive lineman Bilal Nichols among others. With both players possibly returning to the lineup this week, that could spell trouble for Detroit, especially after Matthew Stafford was sacked 10 times against the Minnesota Vikings last week. The Bears would love to add to that sack total.
Detroit at Chicago
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Bears -6.5
Three Things to Watch
1. The return of the Mack?
Bears outside linebacker Kahlil Mack (five sacks) returned to practice this week after being sidelined over the last two weeks with an ankle injury he sustained last month against the Miami Dolphins. He tried to push through that game and the New England game one week later but was ultimately ineffective. So the Bears sat him out of the Jets and Bills games to give him proper rest and recovery. All signs point to him putting the pads back on this week and the Bears can use him as they’ve only had five sacks as a team in his absence.
2. Lions' offensive line
This unit has had its share of problems recently. They’ve allowed Stafford to get sacked 14 times in the last three games combined, the Lions have gone 1-2 in that time frame. The Bears are seventh in the league in total sacks (24), and should Mack return to the lineup those numbers will most likely increase. The Lions need to keep Stafford upright to be competitive in this game.
3. This could be another close game
The last three games at Soldier Field between these two teams have been decided by single digits — a combined 10 points to be exact. The Lions have won two of those meetings and hope to keep this one close as well. The Lions defense has held its own to some degree as they are tied with the Bears for seventh in sacks (24), they’re fourth in passing yards allowed per game (215), and they’ll look to take advantage of any mistakes that the Bears make.
With the Bears likely to get their injured players back, especially on defense, the Lions' offensive issues, and the fact that the Bears are 3-1 at home this season, all signs point to the Bears breaking their losing streak against the Lions. It won’t be a high scoring game, but the Bears will do enough on offense to put this one away and push their winning streak to three games.
Prediction: Bears 24, Lions 14
— 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.
(Top photo courtesy of www.chicagobears.com)