Week 6 NFL Game Preview: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

Week 6 NFL Game Preview: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Kyle Fuller tries to strip the ball from Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson in the second quarter of a Week loss at Ford Field in 2014. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Bears will be in pursuit of their third consecutive and second straight on the road on Sunday afternoon at Ford Field.

In this Week 6 matchup, the Bears (2-3) will travel to Detroit to take on the Lions (0-5) which marks their second NFC North game of the year.

The Lions have the third worst point differential (-55) behind only the Bears and San Francisco this season. As the NFL’s only winless squad, Detroit is reeling as their 0-5 start is their worst mark since 2008 when they finished 0-16.

Considering the Bears haven’t beaten the Lions since Lovie Smith’s final game as the head coach in Dec. 2012, Detroit could have a fair chance in this one. The Lions have beaten the Bears four straight games as they’ve averaged 37 points per game at home against them.

Last year’s December meeting was under Marc Trestman’s command as Jimmy Clausen drew the start with Jay Cutler benched. That in itself is a ridiculous statement.

Of the three other teams in the NFC North, the Bears have the best winning percentage versus the Lions as they own a 96-69-5 record against them.

Here’s a breakdown of what both teams are thinking heading into Sunday’s 171th all-time meeting.

What the Lions are thinking

Offensively, Detroit has to be thinking about getting their playmakers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate the ball as much as possible. That’s even more important with quarterback Matthew Stafford struggling and tight ends Eric Ebron out and Brandon Pettigrew questionable.

Stafford has struggled this season to say the least with six touchdowns, eight interceptions and a career-worst passer rating of 74.8. In two games at Ford Field this year, Stafford has two touchdowns compared to five interceptions.

Overall, the Lions rank last in the league in interceptions thrown (1.8) and fumbles lost per game (1.2). In his second-year as Detroit’s head coach, Jim Caldwell knows those numbers need to go down for them to have a chance to win some games. His job is certainly on the hot seat.

On the defensive side of the ball, it’s strange to see the Lions ranked 27th in run defense with 126.4 rushing yards allowed per game. Without beastly defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on the roster, Detroit’s efforts up front have been well below average.

The best teams have great lines on both offense and defense as the battle at the line of scrimmage is key. The Lions are working with a patched up defensive tackle group. Haloti Ngata (calf) is out and that means fourth-round rookie Gabe Wright, second-year player Caraun Reid and fourth-year man Jeremelle Cudjo will try to make things happen.

Free safety Glover Quin is currently leading Detroit with two interceptions as his 27 tackles rank fourth on the team. He also has a defensive touchdown and has been a true leader all season.

“We are probably more ready to rebound now than ever,” Quin said via DetroitLions.com. “A lot of times when you play a really good game and you lose a close one, those games are tough. But when you play a game and you just get your butt kicked, it’s embarrassing.”

The hope is they won’t get embarrassed much from this point on or this could be tanking pretty fast.

What the Bears are thinking

Jay Cutler is clearly comfortable in Adam Gase’s offense and now that he’s fully healthy from a torn hamstring, he could be in for a big afternoon against a mediocre Lions defense.

Cutler could be without his top three targets however in tight end Martellus Bennett and wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal. Bennett suffered a quad injury Thursday and missed Friday’s practice. Out of the three pass-catchers, he’s the iffiest to play.

I expect Royal to play and Jeffery to try to give it a go, but Jeffery might be rested for another week with a bye on the horizon. Marquess Wilson and Cameron Meredith will see a ton of snaps regardless.

At tight end, Zach Miller could be in line for a big day if Bennett can’t gut it out. The Lions have allowed a touchdown to opposing tight ends in four of five games this season. Look for Miller to be targeted in the red zone and possibly rookie H-back Khari Lee.

Matt Forte will continue to be the feature piece of this offense. He only has two touchdowns this season, but his 10 touchdowns against Detroit are the most he’s scored against any team in his career.

The Bears are 4-1 against the Lions in games where Forte rushes for over 100 yards. He’s averaging 108 total yards from scrimmage in 14 games against Detroit.

On defense, the plan should be simple: rattle Stafford early and often. The formidable Lions offensive line has held its own this season as they are ranked sixth in sacks allowed (7). Last year’s third round pick center Travis Swanson and off-season addition left guard Manny Ramirez have helped them be consistent up front.

The Bears have nine sacks over their last three games after being shutout in that department through two weeks. Linebacker Pernell McPhee and defensive end Jarvis Jenkins each have three sacks apiece.

Vic Fangio’s unit has allowed only four touchdowns over the last three games as they rank fifth in yards allowed per game (300.3) in that span. Detroit is a one-dimensional team as they are dead last in rushing yards (48.8) and a solid ninth in passing yards (272.4) per game. Being behind in games have led to the low run numbers, but rookies Ameer Abdullah and Zach Zenner are not intimidating runners.

After battling a lingering knee injury for most of the season, second-year defensive lineman Ego Ferguson was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Saturday. The Bears signed Bruce Gaston off Green Bay’s practice squad to take his place on the roster. A Chicago native, Gaston is a second-year player who went undrafted out of Purdue after making 32 starts at the collegiate level.

Starting outside linebacker Sam Acho has the right idea. If the Bears can generate some turnovers on Sunday it will do wonders for their confidence and take pressure off Cutler and Co. on offense.

Bears-Lions is always an interesting game and it shouldn’t be any different in the first meeting of the year between the two rivals.

Injury Report

Bears – DOUBTFUL: Safety Antrel Rolle (ankle), linebacker Shea McClellin (knee) and cornerback Terrance Mitchell (hamstring)

QUESTIONABLE: Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring), wide receiver Eddie Royal (ankle), defensive lineman Jeremiah Ratliff (ankle), defensive lineman Will Sutton (elbow), guard Patrick Omameh (ankle), tight end Martellus Bennett (quad), wide receiver Josh Bellamy (groin), linebacker Pernell McPhee (shoulder)

Lions – OUT: Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (calf), linebacker DeAndre Levy (hip) and tight end Eric Ebron (knee)

QUESTIONABLE: Tight end Brandon Pettigrew (knee), running back Joique Bell (ankle), safety James Ihedigbo (quad) and running back Theo Riddick (groin)

PROBABLE: Defensive end Jason Jones (knee), cornerback Darius Slay (hip), defensive end Darryl Tapp (ankle), wide receiver Golden Tate (hip), tackle LaAdrian Waddle (knee) and guard Larry Warford (ankle)

Final Score Prediction

Bears 24, Lions 17

I think the Bears will be able to do just enough to knock off the Lions on the road. Even with a banged up roster, John Fox and his resilient group should be able to muster a win against a Detroit team that has very little talent. Expect the Bears to be 3-3 heading into their Week 7 bye.

Season predictions: (3-2)

look ahead

The Bears get a much-needed bye next week before hosting rival Minnesota in Week 8.

Read up on the five Bears players you should keep an eye on in Sunday’s game in Detroit, here.

Thoughts on the Bears-Lions Week 6 matchup? Make sure to weigh in on the comment section below.

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