The Lions (1-2) have been hosed the last two weeks at the hands of the referees. The NFL admitted they blew a 66 yard pass interference call that cost Detroit the game at Green Bay. However, their season is far from over and marches on to Solider Field to face the Chicago Bears (0-3). Detroit has beaten Chicago six times in a row and the Lions look to make it a 7th time on Sunday at 1 PM on FOX. Let’s take a look at the stats, key injuries and matchups for this NFC North tilt.
Lions Passing Offense
Matt Stafford has played very well through three weeks of the season for Detroit. Stafford has earned a 105 QB rating with 7 TDs and 2 interceptions (1 not his fault). Stafford has been mixing up throws to many receivers but has the strongest rapport with Marvin Jones.
Jones leads the league in receiving by 83 yards (408) yards after a masterful 205 yard and 2 touchdown receiving performance in Week 3. Jones is averaging 22 yards per catch and has nine plays over 20 yards (next closest WR has 6). Marvin Jones is a good number 1 WR and can make the Bears pay.
Bears number 1 CB, Kyle Fuller, was put on IR and the Bears will be hurting at CB with Tracy Porter trying to cover Jones. Brian Callahan should return but the Bears will rely on youth at CB. Bears have some safety injuries to monitor including free safety Adrian Amos and Jones-Quartey. Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Eric Ebron, Anquan Boldin and Theo Riddick should have productive days.
Golden Tate showed some life in Week 3 with four first downs and Eric Ebron is having a good year a tight end for the Lions (5th in TE yards) but is dealing with a new ankle injury. Anquan Boldin has some clutch 3rd down and touchdown grabs and is a nice security blanket for Stafford on third down. Theo Riddick continues to excel as a receiver out of the backfield that can get YAC underneath.
Chicago has a very weak secondary (and injured) and will rely on pass rush to help slow Stafford down. Pernell McPhee is on PUP and Lamar Houston is on IR so it will be up to former Lion Willie Young and rookie first round pick Leonard Floyd to provide the pass rush for Chicago. Detroit has been good to solid in pass protection the first three weeks despite 8 sacks in three weeks. Chicago only has 4 sacks in 3 games. If Detroit protects Stafford well, he will have a huge day carving up the Bears secondary.
Lions Run Game
The Lions run game was very strong the first two weeks of the season but Ameer Abdullah was hurt mid-way through Week 2. Dwayne Washington has looked excellent though in limited carries but Riddick has struggled running the ball the last two weeks after a great Week 1. The Lions will surely give Washington more carries and test the Bears run defense. Chicago is average allowing 4.0 YPC but allowed Ezekial Elliot (4.7 YPC) and the Cowboys to have a big day running the ball in Week 3.
If Detroit establishes a run game, they will score a ton of points in this game.
Lions Run Defense
The Lions have allowed 5.1 YPC which is last in the league. This is skewed by one 67 yard run in Week 2. The Lions are average in the other 66 carries allowed this season (4.1 YPC) but the one big run added a whole yard per carry. However, Eddie Lacy ran well (17 carries for 103 yards) against Detroit in Week 3. Detroit must shore up their run defense including LBs filling gaps. Detroit will still be missing Ziggy Ansah (ankle) and DeAndre Levy (quad) but should get backup LB Antwione Williams (thigh) back to help the run defense.
Jeremy Langford has struggled (3.7 YPC) this season and now has a high ankle sprain and will miss this contest. The Bears signed former Lion, Joique Bell, to replace Langford. Bell knows the Lions well but doesn’t have much time to learn the Bears scheme.
The Bears will rely on rookie Jordan Howard who has ran well on limited carries (12 carries 67 yards) this season. Howard could be a decent threat but the Bears must figure out how to run block much better. Josh Sitton and Kyle Long are good guards to challenge Detroit’s DTs but the Bears are lacking at tackle and center and tight end blocking.
Lions Pass Defense
Detroit is allowing 120 QB rating (32nd with 10 Tds and 1 interception) after a big second half by Andre Luck, big first half by Aaron Rodgers (with rampant Packer holding not called, bogus DPI called and Jordy OPI not called) and big 4th Quarter by Marcus Mariota. Detroit must shore up their coverage and bring more pass rush.
Detroit still misses Ansah (ankle) but Devin Taylor (1.5 sacks) and Kerry Hyder (4.0 sacks) can bring some pressure. Taylor is dealing with an ankle injury of his own but hopefully can aid with pass rush on Hoyer. Chicago has struggled in pass protection and this should be a great game for Detroit to establish a pass rush. However, Brian Hoyer was not sacked in Week 2 or Week 3 while Cutler was sacked 8 times in two games.
Brian Hoyer (93.3 QB rating) has done a solid job for the injured Jay Cutler with 63.9% completion, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions. However, a lot of that production was with the Bears down big already. If Hoyer can avoid turnovers and get protection, he has a chance to succeed. Detroit has only forced one turnover in 3 games and must finally start forcing more fumbles and interceptions. The Bears had a fumble issue in Week 3 but Hoyer has yet to be picked.
Chicago has plenty of weapons to help Hoyer if he gets protection and avoid turnovers. Alshon Jeffrey (271 yards) is still a beast and Kevin White showed some life in Week 3. Zach Miller (2 TDs) is a solid tight end that Hoyer used well in Week 3. Eddie Royal has added 150 yards and a TD as well. The key will be pass protection to allow Hoyer to use these weapons and move the ball.
The Lions are coming off a tough road loss at Green Bay (due to the refs) with a failed come-back attempt (34-27). Detroit must start better in Chicago than they did in Green Bay. Chicago has been somewhat competitive but has fallen in all three contests. Chicago just doesn’t have the defense to stop Detroit nor the protection to allow Hoyer to score too many points. Barring some fluke turnovers or continued referee incompetence, Detroit should win this game by double digits.
Detroit 31 Chicago 21