5 Lions players to watch Sunday vs. the Bears

The Chicago Bears get set for their second of two matchups against the Detroit Lions this season. The Bears (3-12) are in the midst of a historic losing streak, dropping eight in a row after losing to the Buffalo Bills at home and are hoping to avoid a ninth, which would set a team record. Meanwhile, the Lions (7-8) came back to earth after a hot streak when they fell to the Carolina Panthers on the road.

Both teams are going in opposite directions, with the Bears eyeing a top draft pick and the Lions hoping to keep their playoff hopes alive. If they want to do so, they might need contributions out of these players. Here are five Detroit Lions players we’ll be watching on Sunday.

1. QB Jared Goff

Dec 24, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) looks over the defense during the second half against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The last time Jared Goff was getting ready to face the Bears, he was one of the more up-and-down quarterbacks of the league, throwing 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions through eight games. Since that first meeting, however, he’s been mostly on the up. Goff has 12 touchdowns and no interceptions over his last seven games. He’s eclipsed a quarterback rating of over 110 four different times and has the Lions playing good football these last few weeks.

Now he’s facing a defense that has no Jaylon Johnson, Eddie Jackson, or Jack Sanborn in the lineup due to injuries while also getting back a few key receivers from injury. This could be another big performance for the veteran quarterback as he looks to keep the Lions in playoff contention.

2. WR D.J. Chark

Lions wide receiver DJ Chark catches a touchdown pass against Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler Sr. during the first half on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, at Ford Field.
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Goff and the Lions have gotten multiple receivers back after missing time due to injuries. One of them is DJ Chark, who was signed in the offseason away from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Chark missed six games in the middle of the season, returning in Week 11. Since then, he’s gotten more involved in the offense.

Over his last four games, Chark has totaled 318 yards with one touchdown on 16 catches. He eclipsed 90 yards receiving in all but one of those games and has formed a nice duo with Amon-Ra St. Brown. He’ll likely be active again  on Sunday and it could be an opportunity for the Bears front office to scout him. Chark is a free agent at the end of the year and would be an intriguing option for the Bears this offseason.

3. WR Jameson Williams

Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams celebrates his touchdown catch against the Vikings during the first half on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, at Ford Field.
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Another wide receiver that missed the first meeting with the Bears is Jameson Williams, who will be active this weekend. The first-round rookie returned from a torn ACL that he suffered in college and has been slowly getting involved in the offense. Williams has played four games but has only registered one catch. That reception did go for 41 yards and a touchdown, however.

Williams is still getting up to speed in the Lions offense but has a favorable matchup against the Bears banged-up secondary. With St. Brown and Chark likely drawing most of the attention, Williams could make an impact play or two. It will be interesting to see how (and how much) they use him.

4. TE Shane Zylstra

Dec 24, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Detroit Lions tight end Shane Zylstra (84) with the ball after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Before last weekend, many football fans probably didn’t know Shane Zylstra. After his three-touchdown performance against the Carolina Panthers, that has certainly changed. Zylstra had not done much of anything in his second season as a Lion, catching five passes for 23 yards and a touchdown prior to last weekend. He eclipsed that and then some last Saturday, catching five passes for 26 yards and three touchdowns.

Zylstra may fade into the background once again this weekend. He’s still playing behind Brock Wright and rookie James Mitchell. Still, one would think the Lions will want to rely on someone who can find the endzone like Zylstra just did. Why not keep an eye on him to see what else he can do?

5. S Kerby Joseph

Nov 20, 2022; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Detroit Lions safety Kerby Joseph (31) celebrates after intercepting a pass during the second half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Lions star rookie pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson has been grabbing the headlines this year and rightfully so given his strong season. But another rookie on defense has shined bright and that’s safety Kerby Joseph. The former Illini standout was drafted in the third round and became an immediate contributor. Joseph became the starting safety in Week 4 and hasn’t looked back. He has 72 total tackles, two forced fumbles, and three interceptions on the season.

The Lions’ passing defense hasn’t been stellar this year and Bears quarterback Justin Fields was able to find success against them earlier in the year. But Joseph is still someone to watch out for if they try and air it out. He’s someone who could be a nuisance for years to come.

Story originally appeared on Bears Wire