The Detroit Lions snapped a two-game losing streak with a win in Tampa Bay last week, and now look to make it 2-0 in the important fourth quarter of their regular season by sweeping the season series from the Chicago Bears Saturday at Ford Field.
A win last week kept Detroit's (7-6) playoff hopes alive. A win Saturday will keep the train moving down the tracks, and make things interesting the final two weeks of the season.
So, what should Lions fans be looking out for later today in a rare Saturday NFC North matchup?
STOP THE RUN
It's a simple concept, but it hasn't been so easy for the Lions' defense this season. Detroit's allowed an opponent to gain 100 rushing yards as a team in each of their last five games. During that stretch, there was a 222-yard performance on the ground by the Bears Week 11.
Bears running back Jordan Howard rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown that afternoon, and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (53 yards) and running back Tarik Cohen (44) also gashed the Lions.
The Lions escaped with a win, thanks in part to the Bears missing a 46-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds. It was the only loss by the Bears this season when they've out-rushed an opponent.
Detroit can't make it that hard on themselves Saturday by letting Chicago run wild again.
CUT STAFFORD LOOSE
It's crunch time, and if the Lions are going to win out and keep their playoff chances alive, they need to put the ball in the hands of their best player – Matthew Stafford – and let him win it or lose it with his right arm.
The Lions rank last in the NFL in rushing at just 76.6 yards per game. They can't completely abandon the run, or defenses will tee off on Stafford, but last week's pass-to-run ratio of 44 to 18 seems to be a more successful formula down the stretch.
Screens, both to the running backs and receivers, along with Detroit's short passing game, is essentially an extension of their run game. Golden Tate leads all receivers with 510 yards after the catch. Him catching a short pass and turning into a running back for a good gain has proven through the course of the year to be much more efficient than handing the ball off for minimal gains.
Theo Riddick's 396 yards after the catch are seventh among running backs. Like Tate, he's a weapon after a catching a short pass.
Detroit needs to play to their strength on offense, which is Stafford throwing the football.
One area that's been particularly impressive when it comes to Trubisky has been his play on third down. Third down is the money down in the NFL, and Trubisky has been earning his dough.
He is the only quarterback in the NFL with enough qualifying attempts who hasn't thrown an interception on third down this season. His passer rating of 97.3 on third down is the fifth best in the NFL.
That's pretty impressive for a rookie. Defenses in this league can get pretty creative on third down and throw a lot at a young quarterback. It doesn't seem to faze him much.
So, how does Stafford match up on third down?
Only Philadelphia's Carson Wentz (123.7) has a higher passer rating than Stafford (106.3) on third down. Stafford's thrown nine touchdowns and just one interception on third down this season.
DEFEND THE READ OPTION
Trubisky is big and athletic, and has shown he can be a threat with his legs. He's averaging 6.4 yards per carry on the year with a long of 46 yards. He rushed for a touchdown last week vs. Cincinnati on the read option.
Back in the Week 11 matchup with Detroit, Trubisky gained 53 yards on the ground on just six attempts, with a long of 19 yards.
"Our feeling is we'd rather have the quarterback try to beat us running the ball than the running back, and so as always, we have to find a way to stop it," Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said this week about the read option.
"We've got to figure out when they run it, when they like to run it and then hopefully we have the appropriate defense called."
Detroit is just 2-4 at Ford Field this season and 5-2 on the road. There really hasn't been such a thing as a home-field advantage for the Lions this year.
With two of their last three contests at Ford Field, Detroit needs to find a way to reverse their luck at home.
Starting fast, like they did last week in Tampa Bay, would certainly go a long way to helping their cause. Get on the board first, get the crowd into the game, force a turnover early in the game or make a huge play on special teams.
Ford Field fans want to be loud. They want to have an impact. The Lions just have to give them that opportunity by starting on time.