The Detroit Lions look to even the season record at 8-8 and sweep the series with the NFC North rival Chicago Bears in Week 17. It’s the final game of the season at Ford Field for Dan Campbell’s Lions, a matchup they must win to keep the playoff flame flickering.
Recovering from the 37-23 loss in Carolina, a terrible all-around effort from the Lions in a meaningful game, is imperative. To make that happen, a few players need to step up at home against a Bears team that has won once since Week 3.
The theme here is rebounding. All the Lions here need to prove they can bounce back from substandard performances in Week 16.
CB Jeff Okudah
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In the first meeting in Chicago, Okudah pitched a shutout in coverage. The third-year corner even picked off QB Justin Fields in Detroit’s 31-30 win back in Week 10.
Now Okudah is coming off his worst game of the season. He was benched in the Week 16 loss to the Panthers, and deservedly so. Okudah’s normally excellent run defense was putrid in Carolina. The Lions cannot afford another subpar outing in run defense from arguably the best tackler in the secondary–especially with safety DeShon Elliott very iffy to play.
The Bears receiving corps represents a very favorable matchup for Okudah. He needs to get back to form quickly, however; the Lions depend on No. 1 to control a lot of what they do defensively. He cannot afford another bad game, not against a dynamic QB like Justin Fields.
RB Jamaal Williams
Williams is in the midst of a bad spell of games. In the last four games, Williams has run the ball 47 times for 116 yards. That’s an average of just 2.46 yards per carry and it’s not close to good enough.
Some of the issues for Williams have been blocking-related, but he’s also not making defenders miss or hitting the hole with as much aplomb and authority as he did earlier in the season. Running the ball better on first downs will set up OC Ben Johnson to get more aggressive in attacking the Bears porous defense down the field.
Williams had a very good game in the first meeting in Chicago. He forced a season-high five missed tackles and gleaned out almost 50 yards after first contact. If that Williams comes back to the Lions backfield, the Detroit offense is going to be very difficult for the Bears defense that gives up 32.6 points per game over their last eight–all losses. By way of comparison, the Lions are giving up just 22 ppg in that same timeframe.
DC Aaron Glenn
No, Glenn wasn’t one of the myriad Lions defenders who couldn’t tackle or stay in assignment in Carolina. But Glenn is the man in charge of those players, and he also had a poor afternoon in Charlotte in Week 16.
Chicago presents a unique type of challenge with Justin Fields. While the second-year QB has shown legitimate growth as a passer, his underwhelming receiving corps mitigates that threat. The Bears’ only real chance to win this game is by having Fields break down the Lions defense with his legs and creativity.
Like he did in the first meeting…
Fields lit up the Lions for 147 rushing yards and two touchdowns back in Week 10. Glenn typically poo-poos the concept of using a “spy”, but this would be a good week to shake things up. After the terrible tackling and poor positional discipline across the board from his defense in Week 16, Glenn needs a redemptive outing as a coordinator.
QB Jared Goff
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This sets up as a potentially explosive game for the Lions quarterback. Goff is at his best when he has time to survey the field and pick out the best receiver/coverage matchup.
No team puts less pressure on the opposing quarterback than the Bears. They have just 18 sacks on the season (Detroit has 30). They have the lowest PFF team grade in pass rush. Their leader in sacks is rookie safety Jaquan Brisker with four, and the Bears need his skills in coverage to help out their thin secondary.
Goff should have time and opportunity against Chicago. No. 16 needs to take advantage. That’s something he’s done very well lately, though the Panthers’ loss wasn’t a great game for Goff either.