NFC North rivals meet for 18th time on Turkey Day
The NFC North's second-oldest rivalry will get your Thanksgiving Day football started this year. The Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions will do battle for the 180th time in NFL history, and the 18th time on Turkey Day (Bears lead 9-8 in those meetings).
The Bears (5-6) have won two of their last three and are still in the hunt for a playoff spot. The Lions (3-7-1), on the other hand, have lost four in a row and seven of eight after a promising 2-0-1 start. Chicago looks to get back to the .500 mark, while Detroit hopes to get back on track in its annual holiday showcase.
Chicago at Detroit
Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 28 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Bears -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. All eyes on the quarterbacks
Embattled Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky may not have exactly silenced his critics, but he gave himself some breathing room with his performance in last week's ugly win over the New York Giants. He completed 25-of-41 passes for 278 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 6.8 yards per attempt, ran for an additional score on the ground and completed passes to seven different receivers. But he also took two sacks and threw two interceptions.
Trubisky also continues to show the hesitation and indecisiveness that have plagued his 2019 season. But over the last three games, the No. 2 overall pick from 2017 has completed 65-of-107 pass attempts (62 percent) for 641 yards and five touchdowns. So there is some positive amid the negative (he's also taken eight sacks and thrown three picks during that same stretch).
While Trubisky has been inconsistent, his health hasn't been an issue aside from the shoulder injury he sustained earlier this year. The supposed "hip pointer" that Trubisky sustained against the Rams two weeks ago has come under serious doubt.
Health is one thing that the Lions don't have with regard to their quarterback room. Matthew Stafford has missed the last three games after injuring his back in the loss to the Oakland Raiders back in Week 9. His return for this season is up in the air.
Jeff Driskel replaced Stafford with mixed results. He has completed 59 percent of his throws for 685 yards and four touchdowns (with four interceptions and 11 sacks) as the Lions have gone 0-3 without Stafford. Now it's David Blough's turn, as the team announced Wednesday night that the undrafted rookie from Purdue (acquired from Cleveland in a trade in late August), will see his first NFL action because Driskel is dealing with a hamstring injury. The Lions had tried to re-sign Josh Johnson to have depth at least temporarily, but were blocked from doing so by the XFL as Johnson appears to be signing with that league. Johnson began the year on Detroit's roster but was released just a couple of weeks into the season.
So, needless to say, the signal-callers for both teams will have most, if not all, of the attention on them.
2. Defense continues to make an impact
Despite the issues that both teams have had on offense, their defenses have done everything in their power to keep their teams competitive. Over the last four games, the Bears and Lions have combined to register 32 tackles for a loss, 17 sacks, 44 QB hits, 34 pass deflections, and seven takeaways. The Bears have allowed only 10 fourth-quarter points during this stretch, while the Lions have only given up an average of 3.4 rushing yards and allowed only three rushing TDs during this same span. Whoever has the better defense may win this game.
3. Coaches under scrutiny
Both head coaches have made headlines this year, especially within the last week or so. Lions coach Matt Patricia has been answering questions about his job security lately. After winning Super Bowls XXXIX, XLIX, and LI as the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, Patricia was expected to carry that success over to Detroit and be an upgrade over his predecessor, Jim Caldwell. Instead, the Lions are 9-17-1 under Patricia's watch; they're still struggling to run the ball with success (3.9 yards per carry, no individual 1,000-yard rusher under Patricia); and their defense has given up 25 points or more in 13 of the 27 games he's coached. Another loss this week won't help matters.
Job security may not be an issue for Matt Nagy yet, but he's certainly in an uncomfortable position. It's amazing how one year can make a difference, as the Bears went from 12-4 with a division title and a playoff berth to fighting for their playoff lives with less than a month left in this season. The Bears offense went from being one of the best in the NFL in 2018 to ranking at or near the bottom of nearly every offensive category in 2019. Nagy went from being Coach of the Year to bearing the responsibility of the regression of both the offense and Mitchell Trubisky. He's also been taken to task for the Bears' lack of a rushing attack (78.5 ypg, 29th in NFL), and he keeps hearing questions about his game planning.
Both coaches are definitely in must-win mode. A win for Patricia will give him job security for at least one more week, while a win for Nagy will take at least some of the focus off of him.
The Bears won the first season meeting with the Lions in Chicago three weeks ago, beating Detroit 20-13 at home in Week 10. They also swept both 2018 meetings, including last year's Thanksgiving matinee in which backup Chase Daniel started for an injured Mitchell Tribusky. Tribusky will play this time, but it's the Bears' defense that will lead the way once again, taking advantage of the Lions' quarterback situation to secure the season sweep.
Prediction: Bears 21, Lions 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.