The Chicago Bears (3-5) have lost five of their last six games and will look to bounce back against the struggling Detroit Lions (2-6) at Soldier Field on Sunday.
It has been a tough season for the Bears, but lately, the offense has seemed to find a spark. However, the defense has struggled this year, and after trading star defensive end and linebacker Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith, it has gotten worse. The Lions will come to Chicago with a top-10 rushing and passing offense that will stress the Bears’ limited defense.
It is a rebuilding year under the new regime, and a loss would improve Chicago’s draft position. But you play to win the games. Here are three concerns the Bears needs to address to beat the Lions on Sunday.
Detroit has a top-10 rushing offense
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With help from running backs D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams, the Lions have the ninth best rushing attack in the NFL. Swift and Williams are a modern version of “Thunder and Lightning.” The two have combined for 993 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns.
Swift and Williams’ production is concerning for the Bears, who have the second-worst run defense in the NFL, allowing 147.2 yards per game.
Williams, the six-year veteran, is a straight-line, bruising runner that is great at pass blocking. His teammate Swift is an electric every-down back with game-breaking speed and the ability to catch passes out of the backfield.
Look for the Lions to lean on Williams in the red zone. The former Green Bay Packer has eight touchdowns this season, with most coming from 1-2 yard runs.
Given Detroit’s injuries, look for Swift to support in the passing game. He’s fourth in total targets and will be needed when the offense takes the field without DJ Chark and possibly without Josh Reynolds.
The Lions have a top-10 passing offense
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Despite the injuries at wide receiver, quarterback Jared Goff ranks eighth in yards per game and sixth in touchdowns. However, given the team’s 2-6 record, the offense often plays from behind. Nearly half of Goff’s total touchdowns have come in the fourth quarter, and 45% of his total pass attempts have been thrown while trailing.
Although he has struggled lately, the Lions quarterback will look to get the ball out quickly and take advantage of the Bears’ limited secondary and linebacking corps. After Chicago’s performance against Miami, Goff could log his third game with four passing touchdowns.
If the game becomes a shootout and Detroit focuses on the pass, that is concerning for the Bears’ defense. Chicago has allowed quarterbacks to complete 66% of their pass attempts this season, and three quarterbacks have completed more than 70% of their passes against this defense.
Statistically, the Bears appear to have a good pass defense, but it is misleading because teams have found so much success running the ball. As a result, opponents have yet to have to throw often. The average NFL team throws the ball 34 times per game. Chicago’s opponents throw it nearly 20% less at 28 times per game.
Aidan Hutchinson vs. Braxton Jones
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One of the bright spots on the Lions is rookie Aidan Hutchinson, the No. 2 overall pick. The former Michigan Wolverine leads the team with 4.5 sacks, nine quarterback hits, and 14 pressures.
Hutchinson will be the man the Bears’ offensive line needs to stop, and he’ll face another rookie on the other side of the ball in Braxton Jones. The Bears’ left tackle struggled earlier this year against pass rushers from Washington. The fifth-round pick has been great as a run blocker but has struggled in pass protection – allowing five sacks.
Look for Hutchinson to try to add to his sack total. He last recorded a sack in Week 7. However, Jones and the Bears’ offensive line, which has allowed 33 sacks, should provide an excellent opportunity for him.