Bears-Lions Thanksgiving Day Game Preview

The 169th meeting of Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions qualifies as the NFL‘s longest running annual rivalry, with a meeting every year since 1930. Detroit has hosted a Thanksgiving day game since 1945, and a victory in this edition will either keep the Bears in the playoff race or get the Lions one step closer to qualification themselves.


America loves excess; nothing exemplifies this more than the annual Thanksgiving holiday, where food and football are served in equally heaped helpings.

Starting at noon, the football and fixins begin with the Detroit Lions (7-4) hosting their annual feast at Ford Field against the division rival Chicago Bears (5-6) in an NFC North clash. This is the first meeting between the two clubs in 2014, with a rematch scheduled for Dec. 21st at Soldier Field in Week 16. The Lions won both contests last season, 40-32 in Week 4 at home, and 21-19 in Chicago during Week 10.

The Bears come in riding a two-game winning streak, seemingly having righted the ship after blowout losses to New England and Green Bay with hard-fought victories over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12. Meanwhile, the Lions enter the game having lost two in a row on the road: a 14-6 defeat to the Arizona Cardinals and a 34-9 whipping at the hands of the Patriots.

Lions Offense vs. Bears Defense

Having scored just five field goals in their last eight quarters, the Detroit offense can be fairly termed ‘dysfunctional’. The Lions rank 28th in points scored, 21st in total offensive yards, 24th in total first downs earned, and 25th in yards per play. Too often they sputter in the red zone, ranking 24th in scoring efficiency inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Detroit is also 31st in rushing yards per carry, with a paltry 3.3 in addition to ranking 22nd in net yards per pass attempt ‒ both significantly off last year’s marks of 4.0 (22nd) and 6.8 (8th). While some of these results can be blamed on injuries to Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush, this team is far less efficient and explosive at both running and passing the ball, resulting in anemic production.

Meanwhile, the Bears defense is a train wreck of its own sort, ranking 30th in points allowed, 21st in total offensive yards allowed, and 26th in yards per play allowed, while allowing 4.2 yards per rush (16th) and 7.1 net yards per pass attempt (29th).

It is hard to predict which terrible unit will have the upper hand: the Lions anemic attack or the Bears toothless defense. But when in doubt, pick the best player and that’s Johnson, who probably won’t be triple-covered.

Bears Offense vs. Lions Defense

This matchup is more straightforward; the Bears’ offense ranks 20th in points scored and posts similar rankings (between 15-19) in the other categories cited above. They are a good, if not great, unit featuring two excellent outside wide receivers in Alshon Jeffery and the always-interesting Brandon Marshall.

But the Lions defense is the best statistical unit in the NFL this season, ranking first in fewest points allowed, third in fewest total yards allowed, fourth in fewest yards per offensive play, eighth in fewest net yards per pass attempt, and first in fewest yards per carry allowed. The Detroit front four is very talented and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has employed some very creative and unorthodox schemes this season.

Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler could see pressure on every snap and he has a tendency to throw the odd interception or three when harassed. Expect the Lions’ defense to badger the QB into a few mistakes and shut down Matt Forte and the Bears’ running game.

Special Teams

The Bears’ kickoff unit knows how to create a big play; the Lions field goal woes have them on their third kicker of the season. Robbie Gould for the Bears and Matt Prater for the Lions are both shaky; if this game comes down to field goals, it could easily end in a tie.

Summary

The Lions have the only exceptional unit in this game: their defense. It is performing at a high level, despite their most recent shellacking by the Patriots. They completely obliterate the opponent’s ability to run and their pass defense should be able to rely on a Cutler mistake or two. Meanwhile, the Lions’ offense has faced two excellent defenses in the last two weeks, making them seem worse than they actually are. Expect Megatron to make an impact in this game and earn a post-game turkey leg.

Bears-Lions Thanksgiving Game Call: Detroit 21, Chicago 14

Follow David on Twitter @SoSH_davemc.

David R. McCullough is the Editor-in-Chief of Inside the Pylon. He also writes about the topicsshaping the sport, examines the coaches and players, ruminates on football’s past, and explores the controversial issues facing the game.

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