Quote to note: "Any time we play a division opponent, we're going to come out hot and play our best game. That's the mantra around here – that we will play great against division opponents." -- Bears DT Akiem Hicks to reporters after Sunday night's 25-20 win over the Vikings.
No matter where Matthew Stafford has looked in the last 11 days to get a line on the Chicago Bears, adds up to the same conclusion.
The Detroit Lions are in for a tough game against a tough, young team at Ford Field on Thursday.
Stafford saw the Bears live at Soldier Field in a 34-22 loss in Week 10, on television Sunday night in their win over the Vikings, and in videos and scouting reports to put together a game plan for the traditional Thanksgiving Day game.
The Bears have been resourceful on offense under second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. And in the area that concerns Stafford the most personally, they have a dynamic, big-play defense.
"They're a good football team that's playing really well at the moment," Stafford said. "You have to do what you do and do it well," Stafford said. "Obviously, they have really good players. They have a really good scheme. There are strengths at all three levels of the defense.
"So, big challenge for us. A lot of work going into trying to be successful."
There also could be a big challenge at quarterback for the Bears.
Starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky sustained a shoulder injury against the Vikings. Head coach Matt Nagy said in a conference-call interview that it likely won't be known until gameday if Trubisky will start, of if he'll have to reach into the depth chart and start backup Chase Daniel.
The Lions have tightened up their run defense in the last three games, but they've given up 712 yards passing and six touchdowns in the last two games. Trubisky threw three of those TD passes in the game at Soldier Field.
On offense, the primary issue for the Lions is trying to operate with inexperienced players and backups, mostly because of injuries to front-line players.
Kenny Golladay stepped up as the No. 1 receiver last week to catch eight passes for 113 yards. In his first start as a Lion, Bruce Ellington caught six passes for 52 yards.
There were times last week after breaking the huddle when Stafford directed receivers where to line up properly. There should be less of that with this cast of players having played together for a full game.
"Not a lot of time throwing and catching with those guys in live games," Stafford said. "But it was nice to have those guys come up and make some plays. I think the more experience playing together they can have and I can have with them, the better.
"I think whatever it's been ... 14 days or so ... isn't a whole lot of time in the bank. But we'll take what we can get."
Series history: The Bears ended a three-game losing streak to the Lions with a 34-22 win at Soldier Field in Week 10. The Lions have now won nine of the last 11 games.
Week 10 game rewind: The Bears sprinted to a 26-0 lead. The Lions finally broke through with Kerryon Johnson's one-yard TD run with 1:05 left in the half. Two touchdowns midway through the fourth quarter by the Lions closed out the scoring and made the game closer than the 12-point margin would indicate.
Bears QB: Daniel is largely untested in game conditions, despite entering the NFL in 2010 as an undrafted free agent. He has thrown only 78 career passes, with one touchdown and one interception, and has attempted just three passes – all complete – in the last four years.
Daniel has a connection with Nagy. They were in Kansas City together from 2013-15. Nagy coached quarterbacks. Daniel started two games, with a win and a loss.
Bears' D, Mack attack: Outside linebacker Khalil Mack gets a lot of the credit for how the Bears' defense has rampaged through the NFC North rival Lions and Vikings the last two weeks, but he isn't the only one.
The Bears have playmakers at all three levels – defensive line, linebacker and secondary.
Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks didn't get in on the sackfest in the Bears' 34-22 win over the Lions at Soldier Field in Week 9. Hicks had one tackle while his teammates pummeled Stafford all game to get the six sacks and eight hits.
Hicks more than made up for that with his performance Sunday night against the Vikings. Hicks had six tackles, a sack, two hits on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and five tackles for loss.
"Big-time players make big-time plays," Mack told reporters after the game. "Akiem showed up, and he showed out."
Mack showed up and showed out, too – as he has all season when healthy. He had a sack, two hits, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Against the Lions he had two sacks.
Hicks is comfortable in how the Bears' defensive scheme is set up for everyone to get a turn to make plays if they all work together and do their jobs.
"Sometimes you've got to eat up the blocks," Hicks said. "Sometimes you get free and get to go make your plays. Who do you block? That's the question that we want every offense to have to figure out."
Prediction: The first game at Soldier Field got away from the Lions early. The Bears had a 26-0 lead before the Lions finally found the end zone. Having Darius Slay back helps the defense, but issues at wide receiver and running back make it tough to crack the Bears' defense. The Lions have responded well of late on Thanksgiving Day, winning four straight before last year's debacle with the Vikings. The Lions pioneered this game. Maybe they have one coming.
Lions 19, Bears 12.