The Detroit Lions will try to keep their playoff hopes alive when they play host to the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Ford Field.
The Bears, meanwhile, will try to keep their losing streak from reaching nine games, which would be the longest in a single season in team history.
As kickoff approaches, here’s our snapshot look at the game.
1. Pressing question
Can the Bears run over the Lions again?
When the Lions beat the Bears 31-30 on Nov. 13 at Soldier Field, the Bears racked up 258 rushing yards, their second-best output this season behind 281 against the Houston Texans. The total against the Lions included 147 yards on the ground from quarterback Justin Fields and 57 from running back Khalil Herbert.
Coming off one of their worst rushing performances of the season against the Buffalo Bills, the Bears could get their ground game going again against a Lions defense that gives up 145.9 rushing yards per game, tied for 28th in the NFL.
The Lions defense is coming off its worst performance of the season, when it gave up 570 yards, including 320 on the ground, in a 37-23 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
“Every time we play, the running game opens up everything else,” Fields said. “We definitely want to have a rushing attack each and every game, so it’s important. The guys this week are going to work hard at it, and hopefully we get it going this Sunday.”
Against the Bills, Fields had 11 rushing yards, David Montgomery 62 and Herbert 7 yards on six carries in his first game back from injured reserve with a hip injury. Herbert is averaging 59 rushing yards per game and 5.7 yards per carry this season.
“It was a long five weeks, so it felt good just being able to be back out there, get hit again and go through everything,” Herbert said. “It was definitely just getting back into the groove of things.”
2. Man in the spotlight
Lions coach Dan Campbell
Campbell has led a turnaround in his second season with the Lions, who were 3-13-1 last year and opened this season 1-6.
Before the loss to the Panthers in Week 16, the Lions had won six of their previous seven games to vault into contention for a playoff spot. That streak started with back-to-back wins over the Green Bay Packers and Bears in November.
The Lions are playing for their first playoff berth since 2016 and trying to beat the Bears twice in the same season for the first time since 2017. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said the Bears are expecting an exciting atmosphere at Ford Field, an experience he thinks can benefit Fields and the rest of the team as they try to build for the future.
“It’s huge, right?” Getsy said. “That’s where we want to be. We want to be in those important moments where we are playing these games, whether it’s solidifying a seed or getting an opportunity to get in the dance. This is a really good opportunity for these guys to see it. Playing the two caliber teams we just played (the Philadelphia Eagles and Bills) and then the two caliber teams we’re about to play (the Lions and Minnesota Vikings), this is why we do what we do.”
Campbell has been the face of the turnaround, and Bears coach Matt Eberflus said he briefly got to know him when Campbell interviewed with the Indianapolis Colts.
“I just appreciate his energy, his passion for the game,” Eberflus said.
3. Keep an eye on …
The St. Brown brothers, Part 2
Second-year Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown topped 1,000 receiving yards in a season for the first time in his career in Week 16. He had 10 catches for 119 yards in the first game against the Bears and has had at least six catches in every game since then.
St. Brown is part of a Lions offense led by quarterback Jared Goff that ranks fourth in the NFL with 375.5 yards per game.
Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams said coaches receive a color-coded sheet each week, with categories an opponent ranks well in highlighted in green. The Lions, Williams said, have a lot of green, starting with scoring offense. The Lions average 26.1 points per game.
“They don’t give the football away,” Williams said. “They protect the ball. You see explosive plays — green. They’re doing well third and fourth down. You see touchdowns, rushing and receiving — green. So they do a lot of things extremely well. And if you look at the trend, the trend is (going up). They’re getting healthy. …They are a really good team and a really good challenge.”
While the Bears defense will be concerned about the younger St. Brown brother, the Bears offense could welcome back older brother Equanimeous St. Brown on Sunday after he missed Week 16 with a concussion. Before his injury, St. Brown had seven catches for 136 yards in his previous four games. He was limited in practice Thursday.
4. Rookie trio
Bears defensive backs coach James Rowe said he’s starting to see rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon build confidence. Gordon intercepted Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen in back-to-back weeks to bring his total to three picks and six passes defended this season.
“You can tell he’s starting to be himself, relaxing,” Rowe said. “Now he’s starting to open up, starting to have a little bit more swagger about him. So those are good things to see, and that’s positively affecting his game on the field.”
With Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor out for the season, the Bears trio of rookie cornerbacks — Gordon and undrafted Jaylon Jones and Josh Blackwell — have another challenge ahead shutting down Goff, who has thrown for 3,959 yards, 26 touchdowns and seven interceptions, his last pick coming in Week 9.
Williams said sometimes when he realizes the Bears have three rookie starters at corner, he thinks to himself, “Whoa.” But he credits their mentality of being prepared to step in. Rowe also credits the more veteran players who help them, including Johnson.
“Just him sharing his knowledge, his understanding of the game, his experiences and the way he might have played certain things,” Rowe said. “We have good dialogue in the room where guys feel open to ask questions and other guys feel open to answer. I feel like the young guys have just been taking it all in. They’ve been nothing but sponges, and then they’ve been able to apply it.”
5. Injury report
The Bears have gotten healthier with right guard Teven Jenkins (neck) and left guard Cody Whitehair (knee) clear to play Sunday. The same goes for receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, who has cleared concussion protocol and will suit up in Detroit.
Wide receivers Chase Claypool (knee) and Dante Pettis (ankle) are both listed as questionable. But Pettis, who missed Thursday’s practice after injuring himself Wednesday afternoon, was back practicing Friday and should have a shot to go Sunday. Claypool, meanwhile, said it has been “super frustrating” to sit out the last two games.
“We’ve just got to play it day by day,” Claypool said. “It just depends on how (the knee) reacts to practicing. So we’ll just know more information closer to the end.
“I’m going to do everything I can to play. So my expectation is to play, but I also have got to be smart.”
Linebacker Sterling Weatherford (illness) and offensive lineman Ja’Tyre Carter (back) have been declared out for the Bears.. Tight end Trevon Wesco (calf) is questionable.
For the Lions, safety DeShon Elliott (shoulder), center Frank Ragnow (foot) and guard Kayode Awosika (ankle) didn’t practice Thursday. Safety Kerby Joseph (back), guard Logan Stenberg (illness) and linebacker Josh Woods (biceps) were limited.
Brad Biggs (9-6)
The potential return of wide receiver Chase Claypool (knee) and Equanimeous St. Brown (concussion) would give quarterback Justin Fields some more help on the outside against a Lions defense that struggles in all areas. Fields will need to make big plays — throwing and running — for the Bears to spring an upset. The Lions have a formidable offensive line, and that — coupled with what should be a raucous Ford Field crowd — gives them the edge.
Lions 34, Bears 31
Colleen Kane (10-5)
The Lions have more to play for this week at home, where they’ll likely have a crowd enthusiastic about something to cheer in January for the first time in several years. And the Lions also have the motivation coming off an ugly loss to the Panthers. But I think Justin Fields, David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert have an opportunity to put up big numbers against the Lions defense, especially if the Bears trend a bit healthier this week. If the Bears pull off their first win since Oct. 24, it might not help their draft standing, but it certainly would boost player confidence and morale.
Bears 26, Lions 24
Dan Wiederer (10-5)
The Bears offense gets a golden opportunity to regain momentum facing a leaky Lions defense that doesn’t do much well. The Lions allow more yards than any team in the NFL, struggle mightily on third down and can be taken advantage of in the red zone. Chalk this up as a chance for Justin Fields to add to his highlight reel. But the Lions are at home, still have legitimate playoff aspirations and will be hungry after last week’s lopsided loss to the Panthers. And Jared Goff has been playing well over the last two months.
Lions 30, Bears 24