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5 things to watch: Lions at Bears

After dropping two straight games to NFC foes Seattle and Minnesota the last couple weeks, the Lions need a win in a big way later today in Chicago.

A win against the NFC North leading Bears (5-3) would not only get the train back on track for Detroit, but also give the division leader another loss, and really tighten things up in the NFC North race.

Let's a take a look at five important factors in this game that will likely decide the outcome:


The 10 sacks the Lions allowed last week in Minnesota have been a big storyline this week and a point of embarrassment for the players upfront, by their own admission. How will those guys respond this week?

The Bears are expected to get All-Pro outside linebacker Khalil Mack back this week after he missed the last two games with an ankle injury. Mack is a defensive MVP candidate this season, and has 20 tackles, 5.0 sacks, four forced fumbles, an interception and a touchdown in six games played. Right tackle Rick Wagner has his hands full again this week after allowing 3.5 sacks to Minnesota's Danielle Hunter last week.

Stafford has to get the ball out of his hands faster this week, the receivers also have to do a better job of winning their one-on-ones, but it mostly comes down to Detroit's offensive line. Will we see a repeat of last week or will they rise to this new challenge?


Lions head coach Matt Patricia is a first-year head coach considered to be among the NFL's bright young defensive minds.

Bears head coach Matt Nagy is a first-year head coach considered to be among the NFL's bright young offensive minds.

This is the first time either will see the other's new schemes live, so there's likely to be a little bit of a feeling out process early on today.

Can Nagy get himself into some favorable one-on-one matchups? Can Patricia disguise coverage and confuse second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky?

It's the game within the game in this one.


Detroit was 0-for-3 in the red zone last week in a 24-9 loss to the Vikings.

Considering that Detroit's defense gave up only 17 of those points (Minnesota returned a Stafford fumble for touchdown), had the offense been more consistent in the red zone and taken care of the football, Detroit had an opportunity to be in the game last week.

The Lions are converting around 30 percent of their red zone opportunities in losses this season. That number jumps closer to 60 percent in their wins.

On the road against a tough opponent in what's expected to be cold and windy conditions, the Lions can't afford to leave points off the scoreboard this week and settle for field goals.


It's been a problem for the Lions' defense all season, especially in the run game. Detroit and Oakland are the only teams in the NFL that have allowed at least five runs of 40-plus yards this season.

Detroit enters the game 30th in rushing defense, allowing on average 142.5 yards per game. Chicago owns the league's seventh best rushing offense at 128.4 yards per game, so it's a strength on weakness matchup.

Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are a terrific one-two punch in the Bears backfield. Detroit can't let those two beat them. Getting more snaps out of defensive end Ziggy Ansah, and having defensive tackle Damon Harrison continue to play well, will be two keys for the Lions against the Bears' rushing attack today.


Turnovers are always one of the biggest determining factors in wins and losses in the NFL, but being careful with the football will be of particular importance this week for the Lions against the Bears.

Chicago leads the NFL with 82 points off their 21 takeaways. The 21 takeaways are the second most in the league. The Bears have a turnover differential of plus-10, and have recorded 14 interceptions by 10 different players. Cornerback Kyle Fuller has four interceptions over his last four games.

Taking care of the football is stressed by Patricia and Co. every week, but this is a Bears team that not only takes the football away, but takes advantage of those opportunities with points on the back end. Detroit has to be good with the football, and it wouldn't hurt to generate a few turnovers of their own to counter what the Bears do so well.

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