The Detroit Lions welcome the Chicago Bears to Ford Field this weekend for an NFC North showdown. Despite their losing record, Chicago has won three of their last six and could present a number of problems for Detroit. Let’s take a look at some storylines heading into Sunday’s division tilt.
Four Storylines Ahead of Bears at Lions
Justin Fields Set to Return
For the first time since Week 6, Bears quarterback Justin Fields will be active and is in line to start against the Lions on Sunday. In Fields’ absence, the Bears rolled with former Division II quarterback Tyson Bagent to lead their offense. In four games, the Bears went 2-2 with Bagent as their signal-caller, who threw for 859 yards, three touchdowns, and six interceptions.
Fields, who’s recovered from a thumb injury, will provide the Detroit defense with a much tougher challenge this week. In two games against Detroit last season, he ran for more yards (279) than he threw (242). Containing Fields on the ground is easier said than done, but Detroit will need to do so in order to give themselves a chance to win. If they can’t stop Fields on the ground, they need to do it through the air; when Detroit held the Bears quarterback to under 100 yards passing last year at Ford Field, the Lions won 41-10. The other contest in Chicago was much closer when Fields had success throwing the ball.
Getting pressure on Fields will be crucial, specifically from defensive tackle Alim McNeill up the middle along with edge rushers Aidan Hutchinson and Julian Okwara. Okwara, who’s better known as a speed rusher, could see more snaps this week to counter Fields’ quickness. Limiting him will be the biggest key for Detroit in this contest.
David Montgomery’s First Game Against Former Team
After coming over from Chicago in the offseason, David Montgomery will face his former team for the first of two times this season in Sunday’s matchup. Montgomery agreed to a three-year, $18 million contract with Detroit in the summer, replacing Jamaal Williams who signed with the New Orleans Saints. So far, Montgomery has been worth every penny; he’s rushed for 501 yards on 106 carries while reaching the endzone seven times in just six games. He’s been a big part of Detroit’s rushing attack that ranks towards the top of the NFL.
Lions’ Ground Game Against Bears’ Second-Ranked Run Defense
Although Chicago is just 3-7 on the season, their total defense ranks 15th in the NFL while their run defense ranks second. The Bears are limiting their opponents to just 76.0 yards per game on the ground, trailing only the Philadelphia Eagles in that department.
On the flip side, Detroit boasts one of the best rushing attacks in football, averaging nearly 140 yards per game. With guard Jonah Jackson missing his second straight practice on Thursday, the Lions may be without one of their top run blockers. But the aforementioned Montgomery is healthy again and with rookie Jahmyr Gibbs having fully broken out, the Detroit backfield is as lethal as any in the NFL. This will be a great test for a team that’s been dominant on the ground.
First of Two Straight Division Games
Through Week 10 of the NFL season, the Lions have only played one division game, which is the least of any team in football. After defeating the Green Bay Packers in Week 3, Detroit has gone months without facing another NFC North team. Now, the Lions will face two in consecutive weeks. After Sunday’s game against Chicago, Detroit welcomes Green Bay to Ford Field for a Thanksgiving Day matchup.
Every game in the NFL is important, but division games just mean more, especially later in the season. Detroit will have some extra motivation over the next two games against NFC North rivals as they look to extend their lead in the division.
With a win on Sunday, the Lions would push their record to 8-2 for the first time since the 1962 season.
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