LAKE FOREST – In mid-November, the Bears blew a 14-point lead against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. A missed extra point cost the Bears in a 31-30 loss to their division rival.
For the Lions (7-8), it was the second win in a stretch that included six wins in eight games. For the Bears (3-12), it was the third of what has become an eight-game losing streak.
Thanks to their hot streak, the Lions are in the playoff hunt. The Bears don’t have anything to play for, but they certainly want to end this two-monthlong losing streak. Sunday’s game will kick off at noon from Ford Field in Detroit. It will be broadcast on Fox.
Here’s what to watch for.
1. Fields with reinforcements
The Bears could have receivers Equanimeous St. Brown (concussion) and Chase Claypool (knee) back this week after missing time with injuries. That would be a huge boost for the passing game, which has been depleted at wide receiver. Claypool remains questionable, but St. Brown doesn’t hold any injury designation.
Darnell Mooney has been out since Nov. 27 and will miss the final two games. An opportunity to build a rapport between quarterback Justin Fields and Claypool over the final two games could be invaluable and give the duo some positive mojo heading into the offseason.
Although St. Brown doesn’t put up big numbers, he is a key part of the passing attack as both a pass catcher and a blocker.
[ Major reinforcements on the way for Chicago Bears’ offense Sunday against Lions ]
2. Run, run, run
The Bears ran for 258 yards against the Lions on Nov. 13. It was their second-highest rushing total of the season. Fields rushed for 147 yards in that game, which marked his second-highest individual total of the season.
Teams can run against the Lions. Look no further than last week’s loss to Carolina. The Panthers picked up chunk play after chunk play on the ground, totaling a team-record 320 rushing yards. With David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert healthy, and some reinforcements on the offensive line in Cody Whitehair and Teven Jenkins, the Bears’ rushing attack should be at full strength.
Look for Fields to be much more active with his feet than he was last week against Buffalo.
It’s late December and the Detroit Lions have something to play for. At 7-8, they are a half-game out of a wild-card spot in the playoff hunt, just behind the 7-7-1 Washington Commanders.
The Lions need a win this week against the Bears, and they likely will need a win next week against the Packers. The atmosphere at Ford Field in Detroit could be raucous on Sunday with the playoffs on the line. Coach Dan Campbell has rallied his team after a 1-6 start to the season.
“Their defense has been really solid,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said of the resurgent Lions. “I know they had kind of a rough start, but as of late the numbers tell you that they’ve been solid in terms of stopping the run, in terms of being on point, in terms of giving up points.”
4. Jameson Williams is back
The last time the Bears saw the Lions, Detroit first-round draft pick Jameson Williams was sidelined with a torn ACL. Now Williams is back and slowly working his way into the Lions’ scheme.
Williams was the 12th overall draft pick last spring after tearing his ACL in the college national championship game. He’s expected to be a big part of the Lions’ future at receiver. He has played only about a dozen snaps in each of the four games since his return.
Williams has one catch, a 41-yard touchdown, but he is a major threat who has barely been unlocked as a pro.
“Speed,” Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. “Yeah, speed. He can really run, and they’re not really doing a lot with him. You can see how, little by little, he’s being implemented into the offense. So you just have to be aware when he’s on the football field.”
5. High-scoring affair?
In a year where scoring is down all across the NFL (teams are averaging one full point per game fewer than a year ago), the Lions keep finding ways to play shootouts. Lions games average more than 52 points per game by both teams combined.
With this game being indoors, and with the Bears back to full strength on offense, don’t be surprised if this is another high-scoring contest. Lions quarterback Jared Goff has had a fantastic month of December and hasn’t thrown an interception since Nov. 6. He is averaging 319.3 passing yards and 2.3 passing touchdowns per game in December.
Goff will test a Bears secondary that continues to play without safety Eddie Jackson or cornerback Jaylon Johnson.