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O'HARA'S WEEK 17 PREVIEW: Lions need to win in January to keep playoff hopes alive

"Win in January" is a new motto that fits what the Detroit Lions are trying to accomplish in playing meaningful games with a push to making the playoffs.

The Lions fared well – with one glaring exception – in the old adage that winning in December was the key to making the playoffs.

They won three straight games after a loss to the Bills on Thanksgiving Day to make their record 7-7. Unfortunately, they closed out their December schedule with a shockingly one-sided 37-23 loss to the Panthers that put their playoff push in jeopardy.

Winning in January has become the key to the Lions' playoff hopes. It's a two-game regular season for the Lions – at home on Sunday vs. the Chicago Bears and the regular-season finale vs. the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

The Lions were not competitive against the Panthers. They gave up 570 yards, with 320 of them on the ground.

As the Lions began their practice schedule for the week, head coach Dan Campbell was confident that his team would bounce back.

"I know the guys in the locker room – that's why," Campbell said when asked why he thinks the team will bounce back from the Carolina game.

"I know these coaches and I know these players. I know what they're made of. I just go back to the fact that this team was assembled for a reason.

"There's nothing that would tell me that these guys won't bounce back. We're going to put in good work today, and they'll be ready to roll."

Bears' view -- QB star: As he closes out his second season with the Bears, quarterback Justin Fields has a broader feel for what is important to him as the leader of his team.

It doesn't matter who's on the field with him or what the circumstances are.

"I don't care what's around me," Fields said after the Bears' loss to the Bills. "Guys in the locker room know I'm going to give 100 percent. I'm going to give 100 percent every time I'm on the field.

"They know I'm going to lead them. As long as I'm doing my job and doing my job to the best of my ability, I think we have a chance against anybody."

Fields' second season has been a development season. As a passer, his completion percentage has increased from 58.9 percent to 62.3, with 16 TDs in 14 games compared to seven as a rookie.

Fields is one of the league's most dynamic athletes. That's obvious in his rushing stats: 1,011 yards and eight TDs compared to 420 and two TDs as a rookie.

The Lions know from Fields' 147-yard rushing performance in their first meeting – a 31-30 win for the Lions – what to expect in Sunday's rematch at Ford Field.

Lions' keys:

Offense: Continue to use tight ends as scoring threats. Tight ends have caught 10 TD passes. Shane Zylstra has four, Brock Wright two, and James Mitchell one. T.J. Hockenson has three before he was traded to the Vikings. Get the run game up and running.

Defense: Tackle and carry out assignments. All of that was missing in the loss to Carolina. Don't let Fields run wild.

Overall: Play with energy and feed off the fan support at Ford Field. They've been giving the Lions a true home-field advantage all season.

Bears-Lions pick: The Bears are a dangerous team for the Lions because of their running game and the ability of Fields to improvise and the inability the Lions have shown at times this season to stop it.

I like the Lions in this game, but I won't feel good about my pick until Fields and his buddies are on the bus to Metro Airport.

Pick: Lions 30, Bears 27.

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