The Detroit Lions host the struggling Chicago Bears in an NFC North battle at Ford Field in Week 14. Here are the highlights and key players from Sunday’s game.
The Detroit Lions have won eight games to climb to the summit of the NFC North. While the Lions have been making progress, the Chicago Bears have just three wins to their credit.
Things have unraveled for the Bears on both sides of the ball. Injuries at quarterback and wide receiver have stymied an already lackluster offense. Meanwhile, the defense hasn’t responded to the philosophical and schematic contradictions at the coaching level.
Yet for all their problems, the Bears do boast some intriguing and talented young playmakers. Chief among them is rookie running back Jordan Howard, who should be the main target of Detroit’s fearsome defense.
Matt Barkley needs Howard to get on track in the Motor City. If the Bears don’t establish the run, stand-in quarterback Barkley will be at the mercy of a useful pass rush led by Ziggy Ansah.
The Lions will be wary of Chicago’s pass rush. It’s led by another rookie, rush end Leonard Floyd, and has been surprisingly effective in recent weeks.
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford can beat the rush by targeting running backs and possession receivers on quick throws. Theo Riddick and the returning Joique Bell are prolific out of the backfield, while wideouts Golden Tate III and Anquan Boldin could dominate.
Highlights will be added and updated as and when they happen.
Here’s a prediction about which players will thrive this week.
1. Golden Tate III
Tate is quietly perhaps the most effective inside receiver in the NFL. He’s a sure-handed target who works the middle with intelligence and attacks like a running back after the catch.
Those skills will help Tate exploit an injury hit Bears secondary. Cornerback Kyle Fuller is still a doubt, according to Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times. Fuller’s absence puts the spotlight on rookie cover man Deiondre Hall.
Expect Tate to target the inexperience at the back end of Chicago’s defense.
2. Theo Riddick
Not so long ago the Bears would have been able to track and shackle a pass-catching running back. But that was before inside linebacker Danny Trevathan was ruled out for the season with a knee injury. Before Jerrell Freeman was suspended for a PED violation.
Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio usually loves to match his inside linebackers in man coverage against intermediate receivers. Riddick has the skills to exploit the replacements, after catching 53 passes through 10 games.
3. Akiem Hicks
Chicago’s defensive line could cause havoc inside with the Lions facing injury issues along the offensive front. Specifically, center Travis Swanson won’t play, according to Tim Twentyman of the Lions official site.
The Bears have the players to further puncture the middle of Detroit’s O-line. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman is a force, but Hicks is a game-wrecker when at his best.
Hicks was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week after last week’s win over the San Francisco 49ers. He put up big numbers against the Niners, including: “two sacks, 10 tackles, a quarterback hit, a forced fumble,” per CSN Chicgao’s John Mullin.
The Bears beat the Lions in Week 1. If they are going to do it again, they’ll need Hicks at his destructive best.
The Lions will be on the road against the New York Giants in Week 14, while the Bears host old enemy the Green Bay Packers.