A week one preview of The Detroit Lions, who open up their 2020 season against the Chicago Bears, an NFC North divisional rival.
Over the course of the last week, we’ve been breaking down the Detroit Lions roster and previewing their season. From Matthew Stafford at quarterback, to the new look defense that got overhauled this off-season. Week one is less than a day away, and the Detroit Lions have an important game against their divisional rival Chicago Bears who come in to town to open the year at Ford Field.
Detroit Lions offense faces tough challenge
The Lions return a lot of weapons at wide receiver and tight end this season, including Kenny Golladay and TJ Hockenson. There are a couple unknowns heading into week one despite this, though. Golladay is expected to be out due to a soft tissue injury, meaning either Marvin Hall or rookie Quintez Cephus will be one of the team’s starting wide receivers. Additionally, Hockenson and Marvin Jones are both coming off season ending injuries last year, and Jesse James is coming off his worst season in the NFL last year in his first year with the team.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears secondary has some great pieces, including safety Eddie Jackson who’s one of the best cover safeties in football, as well as their first string corner Kyle Fuller, who has proven over the years he can take out a mid to low tier wide receiver one pretty consistently.
The Chicago Bears also have a stout pass rush typically, however Khalil Mack has been dealing with a nagging injury all week at practice and was limited for all three days of practice, while Robert Quinn is listed as doubtful and is unlikely to play. This is fortunate news for the Lions, as free agent addition Halapoulivaati Vatai will be out for week one due to injury himself.
The potential X-Factor here for the Lions is Marvin Hall. Hall has showcased strong development this training camp, and made some nice plays on occasion last season in a limited setting. He will be matched up with rookie corner Jaylon Johnson should he be named starter over Cephus, which will give him a good chance to exploit the Chicago Bears likely weakest, or at least most unproven, defender on the field.
Meanwhile, the Lions rushing offense that was expected to feature D’Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson this season has added a new face in Adrian Peterson. Peterson should be expected to see a good number of carries week one. Swift missed two weeks of training camp, which even in a normal rookie season is a major setback. Johnson also is best served in a rotational role that will keep him fresh, healthy, and prepared to move forward for the rest of the season.
The Bears run defense is led by stout defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who might be one of the most underrated interior defenders in football. Fortunately for the Lions, the Chicago Bears other starting defensive tackle Eddie Goldman elected to take the voluntary opt out offered to players this year, and will not be playing in either meeting this season.
The X-Factor for the Lions rushing offense is going to have to be Adrian Peterson. If he can come in and produce day one on a similar level to what he did in Washington last season, he could help change the tide of the game.
Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has been strong against the Lions
The Detroit Lions defense has what on paper should be an easier match up than the offense this week, however it’s not always that simple. Matt Nagy has shown since he was hired by the Chicago Bears that he and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky have had the upper hand on Matt Patricia in their meetings thus far.
Nagy comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree, which historically has had success against the Matt Patricia defense going back to his time with the Patriots. Doug Pederson of the Eagles, as well as Andy Reid’s Chiefs team have both found ways to exploit Matt Patricia during his time in New England.
The good news for Lions fans, though, is that Matt Patricia showcased last year he knows how to defend the main concepts of the offense, even with Paul Pasqualoni in charge last year. The Lions put up a good fight defensively vs the Chiefs and were one of Patrick Mahomes toughest match-ups last season along with the Indianapolis Colts, who copied the Detroit Lions defensive game plan on their way to a victory.
An underrated addition to add to this is the Lions’ new defensive coordinator Cory Undlin. Undlin comes from the Eagles, who are still using a Reid like system under Doug Pederson, which Undlin is used to practicing against as the team’s former defensive backs coach. That kind of up close experience with the Andy Reid tree could prove useful for the Detroit Lions this coming season, specifically in week one.
This also extends to the rushing defense as well. The Detroit Lions are in for a tough task with having to defend Chicago Bears running backs David Montgomery who is recovering from a groin injury suffered in camp, as well as Tarik Cohen, but with a couple of new additions to the front seven including Danny Shelton and Jamie Collins, the team should fare better against the run this season.
An X-Factor for the Detroit Lions defense this week could be Amani Oruwariye. Oruwariye and first round draft pick Jeff Okudah will likely see a rotation of snaps depending on situation and play calling on Sunday. With Desmond Trufant on the other side taking away Allen Robinson in what should be one of the most exciting battles of the game to watch unfold, Oruwariye and Okudah will need to work together to take away the team’s secondary options.
This Writer’s Prediction
Ultimately, I think this game is going to be quite close. Both teams will likely have some rust from the lack of preseason similar to what we saw on Thursday from the Chiefs and Texans both. This means the team who’s able to get the ground game working more effectively, and more importantly, efficiently, is likely to come out of week one still undefeated.
The Lions new running back group of new addition Adrian Peterson and a slightly injured D’Andre Swift added in to Kerryon Johnson last season are at this point to me, more likely to find success than a slightly injured David Montgomery and third down back Tarik Cohen. I also like the Detroit Lions offensive line unit a little bit better than the Chicago Bears entering week one. I specifically like the left side which for the Lions features Taylor Decker, Joe Dahl and Frank Ragnow vs. the Chicago Bears number three pass rusher in Roy Robertson-Harris (according to Ourlads depth chart).
If the Lions can get off on the right foot on the ground, while putting the Chicago Bears in a position where they are forced to throw the ball and rely on Mitchell Trubisky to carry them, the Lions will be in good shape for a victory this week.
Score Prediction: 28-24 Lions Win.