NFC North rivals meet in the Windy City with each team looking for positive momentum
The battle to emerge from the basement of the NFC North will commence Sunday when the Chicago Bears host the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. A playoff spot is a long shot for both teams at the moment, but they both want to climb out of the division cellar.
Both teams got off to promising starts but have tapered off since then. The Bears (3-5) have lost four straight after a 3-1 start, and they're experiencing issues on both sides of the ball. The Lions (3-4-1), on the other hand, began the season with a three-game unbeaten streak (2-0-1) only to see things go in the other direction since.
With both teams looking to get back on track, this could wind up being another classic "black and blue" divisional showdown.
Detroit at Chicago
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 10 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Bears -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. The Bears' offense is stalling
The most surprising component of last year's Bears team has become its worst enemy this year. The regression of 2017's No. 2 overall draft pick Mitchell Trubisky has been painful to watch. The raw numbers (63.0 completion percentage, 1,217 passing yards, 5 TDs) are deceiving; Trubisky has taken 17 sacks, and he's averaging just 5.6 yards per attempt and 180.4 passing yards per game (31st in the league) with a 34.1 QBR. Trubisky gets rattled in the pocket, he's hesitant to attempt the big throws, and at times he looks confused in his decision making.
Wide receivers Allen Robinson (47 catches, 532 yards, 3 TDs), Taylor Gabriel (17 catches, 238 yards, 3 TDs), and Anthony Miller (16 catches, 211 yards) have made the most of their chances during Trubisky's struggles. Running backs David Montgomery (133 receiving yards) and Tarik Cohen (193 receiving yards, 1 TD) have also lent a hand in the passing game, but the tight end position continues to be problematic. Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, and J.P. Holtz have managed to collectively produce only 205 yards on 27 catches. Head coach Matt Nagy prides himself on the passing game, but right now that just isn't working.
The Bears have all of the tools needed to have a strong run game, but Nagy just hasn't used them. Montgomery is the team's leading rusher (112 carries, 406 yards, 5 TDs), but the Bears have posted just 241 rushing yards in their last three games combined and are averaging 80.5 yards per game (27th in the NFL). Tarik Cohen (26 carries, 63 yards) has been invisible, while wide receiver/return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson is second on the team in rushing yards (78) and leads the team in yards per carry (6.5). Calling more run plays and bringing necessary balance to this offense can help take pressure off of both Trubisky and an offensive line that's given up 22 sacks.
2. The Bears' defense misses Akiem Hicks
Since losing Hicks to an elbow injury against the Raiders in London five weeks ago, the Bears have registered only six sacks, while each of their opponents has thrown for 200 or more yards against them during this stretch. Hicks' absence from the run defense has also been felt, as the Bears have surrendered 502 yards and six touchdowns on the ground during this four-game skid. The Bears were hoping that Bilal Nichols and Eddie Goldman would fill the void, but both players have struggled. Nichols has been playing with a broken hand, while Goldman has been dealing with a hamstring issue. During this losing streak, Goldman and Nichols have combined for just 16 tackles, one sack, two tackles for a loss, and one QB hit. This team must find a way to get pressure until Hicks returns for the latter part of the season.
3. The Matthew Stafford show
With the Lions still struggling to run the ball (96 rushing yards per game, 286 total in the last four), Stafford's golden arm continues to lead the way for Detroit. He's posted three straight 300-yard efforts with a combined 10:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his last three games. Rest assured that Stafford is licking his chops about the opportunity to take advantage of this struggling Bears team, especially since the Lions are averaging 25.5 points per game. Perhaps Detroit will try to run the ball more considering Chicago's difficulties in that department these last few weeks.
Short and simple: Unless the Bears can get their offense going, and unless they can rediscover their run defense and keep the Lions' offense one-dimensional, Chicago is looking at a fifth consecutive loss.
Prediction: Lions 20, Bears 13
— 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.