Detroit Finishes Their NFC North Roadtrip At Chicago For Their First Matchup This Season.
Division games are big in the NFL. They are even bigger late in the season when playoff chatter begins and we start looking ahead. Detroit will finally play Chicago for the first time this season and they do so in the windy city as Detroit will finish their NFC North away games before Thanksgiving.
The Lions are entering the game 5-4 and 2-0 in the division, while the Bears are 3-6 and 0-3 in the division. Detroit is needing this win to help their playoff chances, as a Vikings loss and Lions win this week could mean a game for first place in the NFC North on Thanksgiving between the two teams. Here are the three keys to a Lions victory on Sunday in Soldier Field.
Offensive Line Is Finally All Together
Since signing offensive guard T.J. Lang and offensive tackle Rick Wagner, fans have been waiting to see what this reinforced offensive line can do for the team. Sadly, Taylor Decker was sidelined with a torn labrum and didn’t reappear until last week’s win over the Cleveland Browns.
The offensive line has been a revolving door while Decker was out and just when he returned, Lang was diagnosed with a concussion and missed the Browns game.
If Don Barclay gets the start on Sunday and once Taylor Decker returns, Detroit would have 9 different starting offensive linemen this year.
— Brandon Knapp (@BKnappBlogs) November 10, 2017
While Corey Robinson was the starter at right guard last week over Don Barclay, this number is still too high, but luckily Lang will return as he was a full participant in practice this week and for the first time this season, the Lions will have all five starting offensive lineman in and ready to go.
The running game with Ameer Abdullah seemed to have some life against the Browns, but it might be able to fully come to life against the Bears who are 15th in the NFL in run defense, and seem to struggle when starting linebacker Danny Trevathan is out.
— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) November 17, 2017
Anthony Zettel And Company Have To Create Pressure On Trubisky And Stop Howard
Creating pressure on a young quarterback can do a lot to an offense. Mitchell Trubisky has been better than what Bears fans thought of him when they drafted him back in April, but he is still a rookie and one that has seen struggles this season. He has a 51% completion percentage this season so far, throwing for 809 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in five games.
Along with creating pressure on Trubisky, they have to stop starting running back Jordan Howard, who has 177 carries for 716 yards and four touchdowns. The Bears have the 29th ranked offense when it comes to yards and allow an average of three sacks a game.
Defensive end Anthony Zettel and everyone else on that defensive line must be able to create pressure on the young quarterback and stop the run or else they could be in for a carving with Howard on the ground.
Darius Slay Needs To Keep His Performance Up
Talk about shutdown coverage. Cornerback Darius Slay has been on fire this year. Slay is showing that he was worth the money we spent on him last season in his extension, and what now looks like a steal in the production he has given the team.
#Lions CB Darius Slay has allowed a TOTAL of 348 receiving yards this season.
— Logan Lamorandier (@LLamorandier) November 15, 2017
This week against the Bears shouldn’t be an issue for the star cornerback. The leading receiver for Chicago is Kendall Wright with 305 yards and a touchdown. If Slay can shut down Wright or any other receiver, that eliminates another option for Trubisky who could struggle. If Trubisky wants to risk it and test Slay, it could end up bad for the quarterback and good for the Lions.
While the weather in Chicago should just be cold on Sunday, with the rain leaving Saturday night, it shouldn’t be too big of a factor in the game. Detroit has the better selection of weapons on offense as Golden Tate and Marvin Jones are better threats in the air and Stafford is the experienced quarterback again this week.
While stopping Howard will be tough, the Lions defense should be able to keep up with the second year running back as he should see most of the workload. This is a trap game for Detroit as the Vikings game on Thanksgiving could be the biggest of the season, but Detroit won’t fall into that trap.
Detroit wins 31-17.
If you’re interested in a more in-depth preview, check out Zac’s article here.