Travis Swanson has been one of Detroit's most consistent and reliable linemen all season long, but his status for Sunday's game vs. Chicago doesn't look good after he missed practice all week with a concussion.
Swanson's absence in the middle of the offensive line has the potential to be significant. He's played well all season long, allowing just two sacks and seven total pressures in 12 games, per Pro Football Focus statistics.
If Swanson can't go, it seems likely that rookie Graham Glasgow will shift from guard to center, and Laken Tomlinson will then slot back into the starting lineup at guard.
The Lions drafted Glasgow in the third round this year to compete with Swanson at center. Swanson earned the starting nod this season with his play in training camp and the preseason, but the Lions found ways to get Glasgow's feet wet at guard early in the season. He eventually replaced Tomlinson as a starter at left guard. Glasgow's played 437 snaps this season and has started the last seven games at guard.
"I think game experience will help with all possible transitions that anybody would have to make," offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said this week.
"He's been out there in the heat of battle, that's a lot easier to have done for seven or eight games, or whatever the number is, and then transition if needed to a different spot."
Still, there's more to playing center than simply shifting over to the right one spot. Quarterback Matthew Stafford handles most of the protections, but he does that in lock step with the center. Then there's snapping duties. One false move in that department can alter a game.
But Cooter thinks Glasgow will be just fine handling center duties if asked to do so.
"He does a good job talking, does a good job communicating," Cooter said. "It's really important that offensive linemen are all on the same page with the guy beside him and the guy calling the shots behind him. He does a good job with that, that's been really important for us."
STRENGTH ON STRENGTH
The Lions are one of the top teams in the NFL turning short passes into big plays. Detroit ranks fourth in the NFL with 1,778 total yards after the catch.
Receiver Golden Tate ranks third in that department (508), and running back Theo Riddick (389) is 10th.
But Chicago is one of the best teams in the NFL getting guys on the ground after they catch the football.
Chicago's tied with New England for the NFL lead in fewest YAC yards allowed this season (1,079). The Bears have allowed an average of just 4.3 yards after the catch, second fewest in the NFL.
It's one of those strength-on-strength matchups to watch Sunday.
STOPPING THE RUN
Head coach Jim Caldwell made the comment Friday that the goal every week is to attempt to make his opponent play left-handed.
It's a pretty common philosophy, really. Take away what a team does well, and make them have to feature things they're not as comfortable with.
When it comes to Chicago, their strength is running the football. They'll run it right down Detroit's throat Sunday if the Lions let them.
Chicago ran 40 times last week against San Francisco for 142 yards and three rushing touchdowns.
Rookie running back Jordan Howard has five 100-yard performances this year, and is 117 yards short of reaching 1,000 yards on the year.
With quarterback Matt Barkley making just his third start of the season (and first on the road) Sunday at Ford Field, the Bears will no-doubt try and make things as comfortable for him as possibly by trying to establish the run early on.
It's up to Caldwell and Co. to make Chicago play "left-handed" and make Barkley have to beat them.
Detroit's defense currently ranks 13th against the run (98.2). Over the last eight games, opponents have averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry against them.
Captains this week for the Lions are: receiver Anquan Boldin (offense), safety Glover Quin (defense) and cornerback Johnson Bademosi (special teams).