The NFL's "Black and Blue" division (also known as the NFC North) will be on display when the Chicago Bears host the Detroit Lions as part of the Week 4 slate. Both teams are coming off of debilitating losses in Week 3. The Lions (0-3) suffered a last-second defeat to the Ravens at home, after Justin Tucker kicked what's now the longest field goal in NFL history (66 yards). The Bears (1-2), on the other hand, were outplayed in every facet of the game in last week's 26-6 loss in Cleveland.
Both teams are in desperate need of a win for different reasons. The Bears want to prove that last week was just a blip on the radar, while the Lions are still seeking that elusive first win of the year. Both teams have issues on both sides of the ball, and now they look to take out their frustrations on one another.
Detroit (0-3) at Chicago (1-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 3 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Bears -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Quarterbacks in the spotlight
Bears head coach Matt Nagy said earlier this week that either Justin Fields, Andy Dalton, or even Nick Foles could start against Detroit on Sunday. Dalton sat out last week's game due to a bone bruise in his knee, so Fields got the start. But Fields struggled mightily, going 6-for-20 as a passer for 68 yards while taking nine sacks. He also had just 12 rushing yards as he looked nothing like the dynamic, explosive player he did during the preseason or in limited action the first two games against the Rams and Bengals. Foles was Fields' backup but didn't enter the game.
Dalton has been limited in practice this week while Fields has been a full participant, despite the fact that he has a brace on his hand after hurting his thumb against the Browns. Foles also has been getting his share of reps, but on Friday Nagy said it will be a game-time decision as to whether Fields gets his second start or Dalton gets the nod.
If it's Dalton that will put more pressure on the offensive line, which has had its own struggles in the early going. Even if it's Fields, the pass protection will have to improve (see last week), but at least the rookie has a better chance of buying time in the pocket or making something happen if the play breaks down compared to Dalton, who figures to be even less mobile than normal because of the injury.
It's also on Nagy to put together a game plan that puts each quarterback in the best position to succeed. For Fields that could mean simplifying the playbook but also allowing him to use his speed and athleticism. For Dalton (and Foles should he be called upon), the focus needs to be on getting rid of the ball quickly and leaning on the running game
There is no mystery for the Lions at quarterback. Former Ram Jared Goff immediately replaced Matthew Stafford as the starter when the two were traded for each other (and draft picks) this offseason. Goff has better numbers (69 percent completion rate, 801 yds., 5 TDs) than Chicago's collection of signal-callers, but he's not slinging it downfield (6.5 ypa) and has been sacked six times.
The Bears have faced Goff enough times to know what it takes to get him off his game. Even with their own question marks, Chicago could get the advantage at quarterback if the defense is able to put enough pressure on Goff to force him into some bad decisions.
2. Both teams have issues on defense
Detroit enters this game last in the NFL in scoring defense, giving up 32 points per game and that's after holding Baltimore to 19 last week. The Lions are 22nd in yards allowed per game (384), as teams have been able to both run (114.3 ypg, 15th) and throw (269.7 ypg, 21st) on them. Detroit does have six sacks in three games, so that's something worth watching after Chicago surrendered nine to Cleveland.
The Bears have been better on defense, statistically speaking, ranking 10th against the pass (231.3 ypg) and 12th in total defense (350.7 ypg). But they have fared worse than Detroit in stopping the run (119.3 ypg, 20th) and are giving up 26 points per game (18th). The defense has done a good job getting to the quarterback as their 11 sacks trail only Carolina and the aforementioned Browns, and the unit has generated four takeaways. But the stretches of inconsistency have been frustrating for Bears fans to watch and it's something that will need to improve, especially if the offense continues to flounder.
Chicago should get a boost on Sunday. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman finally returned to practice this week after missing the first three games because of a knee injury. His return could especially benefit the run defense, which was gashed by the Browns for 215 yards on 42 carries last week. he has yet to play this season as he's been slowed down by a knee injury. The Bears could certainly use him against the run, as evidenced by the fact that they allowed Cleveland to rush for 215 yards last week. Given the offensive issues for both teams, both defenses will have an opportunity to step up and dictate how this game turns out.
3. What's at stake
Detroit not only is looking for its first win of the season, but the Lions also are looking to snap a seven-game losing streak that goes back to the 2020 campaign. In fact, their last win came in Week 13 in Chicago, a 34-30 come-from-behind victory in which Stafford threw for 402 yards. Of course, he's no longer with Detroit and neither are several other principals (namely Adrian Peterson, Marvin Jones Jr.) from that game.
Chicago is trying to get back to the playoffs after last season's wild-card appearance. The Bears have put together two dud performances sandwiched around a Week 2 home win over Cincinnati. Sunday not only gives Nagy's team the chance to get back to .500 but pick up a critical win in the NFC North standings. A strong showing also could do wonders for the team's psyche as the Bears head into the most difficult stretch on their schedule. Chicago's next five games leading into the Week 10 bye go like this – at Las Vegas, vs. Green Bay, at Tampa Bay, vs. San Francisco, at Pittsburgh (on "Monday Night Football").
Chicago leads the all-time series with Detroit comfortably (102-75-5), but the Lions took the last meeting, which also was at Soldier Field. The Bears have consistently been the better team over the past several seasons, winning five of the last seven matchups, but both teams enter this game with similar issues. There's still plenty of uncertainty when it comes to Chicago's quarterback situation but I think the team bounces back from last week's disastrous performance to win a close one.
Prediction: Bears 24, Lions 21
— Written by Gabe Salgado, who 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 can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.