Happy New Year!
Normally a day reserved for college football, January 1st is all about the NFL in 2023. One of the new resolutions for a lot of football fans is to get acclimated to the new NFL calendar, a shift where today’s games aren’t even the last week of the regular season.
For the Detroit Lions, Week 17 is a big one. The 7-8 Lions host the 3-12 Chicago Bears for the final home game of the 2022 season. Detroit still has postseason potential, but will need to bounce back from a terrible loss last week in Carolina to keep those playoff flames flickering.
Here’s what is on my mind about the Lions vs. Bears as we approach kickoff.
Big game for Aaron Glenn
Glenn’s defense was devastated last week by poor tackling, bad run fills from the second level and generally undisciplined play. We hadn’t seen that in several weeks from the Lions.
Glenn’s scheme didn’t help out his players. The last game before the Panthers incident where the opponent exploited the scheme against the Lions was the Bears back in Week 10. Detroit won that game 31-30, but Chicago QB Justin Fields ran at will and had some success throwing too.
These Bears are not as good as the Week 10 team in Chicago. But Fields remains dangerous. It’s incumbent upon Glenn to figure out a way that his defensive players can be in better position to shut down one of the league’s top runners. Execution is another matter, but rigidly sticking to single-high safety in a base 4-2-5 is not the answer for Glenn. We’ll see if he can adapt to both Fields and playing without safety DeShon Elliott, the team’s best downhill tackler in the secondary.
Diversity of weapons
Chicago offers almost no pass rush. Their sack leader is rookie safety Jaquan Brisker, with four. Up front, nobody has more than two.
The Bears secondary, when healthy, is young and impressive, capable of overcoming the poor pass rush. But Chicago is banged up and shuffling bodies around. That leaves a golden opportunity for Lions QB Jared Goff to pick apart the defense.
I expect Goff to throw to a wide range of targets in this one. It might not be a banner day for any one Lions receiver, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see five different Lions catch at least four passes. Hopefully one of them is rookie Jameson Williams, who can really make an impact against the Bears. He should get at least three targets in a (slightly) expanded role.
Be the better team
It’s not often we come to the end of a season and the Lions are the definitively better team, but that’s absolutely the case against Chicago. The Bears went from 2-1 to 3-12 by having the NFL’s worst scoring defense since September; over the last eight weeks, the Bears allow a full 10 points per game more than the Lions. Chicago hasn’t posted even 300 yards of offense in four of its last five games, either.
In short, the Lions should win. They’re expected to win. How will they handle those expectations? Coming off a bad road loss where they were also expected to win ups the ante here a little for head coach Dan Campbell. Learning to play as the hunted and not the hunter is something that can trip up a young coach and a very precocious team.
Last week at this time, I had a sinking feeling that I was overconfident as I predicted the Lions to win. It wasn’t enough to change my pick, but it nagged at me and bit me hard from the very first drive.
I really don’t have that sense today. I’m confident in the Lions taking care of business against a very limited but still threatening team. If the Lions don’t beat themselves, Chicago won’t beat them.
Lions 30, Bears 20