Coming off an awful performance in Carolina, here are three key matchups in a must-win game for the Detroit Lions against the Chicago Bears.
The playoff race in the NFC is turning into a contest of who will shoot themselves in the foot the least. The Detroit Lions were in prime position to jump into a playoff spot and gain the chance to control their own destiny. Instead, they laid an absolute egg and had one of their worst performances of the year.
Now Detroit has no choice but to win the final two games of the season. At 7-8, the odds of snagging one of the NFC wildcard spots are dropping. Detroit desperately needs a win in the penultimate game of the season against the Chicago Bears.
While Chicago has an uninspiring record, they nearly took down the Lions in Week 10. They pose a very real threat to the Lions’ season in Week 17. Detroit is capable of beating this team, but it will take a disciplined effort.
Here are three key matchups to watch for the Lions against the Bears on Sunday.
Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears: 3 key matchups for Week 17
Matchup 1: Lions DEs vs. Bears QB Justin Fields
In the previous matchup between these two teams back in Week 10, Fields ran all over the Lions (13 carries for 147 yards and two touchdowns). Detroit actually did an ok job against the scrambling of Fields, but designed runs were a major issue. Any defensive end not named Aidan Hutchinson was wildly undisciplined as the read key, which resulted in Fields meeting little resistance when he ran. A 67-yard touchdown was the shining symbol of the Lions’ struggles against Fields as a runner.
Obviously, that cannot happen again. Containing Fields’ rushing ability is the most important aspect of containing the Bears’ offense. Detroit has more experience against him now, and Fields himself has been taking a beating over the course of the season.
Detroit’s defensive front is coming off its worst performance of the year. The lack of discipline, and quite frankly effort, led to an embarrassing outing against Carolina. Detroit’s front will need to aggressively rebound from that performance to keep Fields and the Bears’ rushing offense in check.
Matchup 2: Lions S Kerby Joseph vs. Bears TE Cole Kmet
Joseph has had his ups and downs in his rookie season. One of those downs was the first game against the Bears. Joseph struggled in coverage, being the main culprit on both of Kmet’s touchdown receptions. He also struggled in run support, diving for air on Fields’ long touchdown run. It certainly was not one of his finer games this season.
Joseph has a nose for the football, that much has been established. His knack for creating turnovers is something this defense desperately needed this season. However, his inexperience has been taken advantage of at times. The aforementioned breakdowns in Week 10 highlight that.
This Week 17 rematch against the Bears will provide Joseph an opportunity to show he learned from those mistakes. Much like the defensive front, he has to show he can stay disciplined in coverage and in run support. If Joseph can do that, Detroit’s back end will look a whole lot better.
Matchup 3: Lions RB D’Andre Swift vs. Bears LBs
Arguably the biggest disappointment of the Lions’ season has been the fall of D’Andre Swift. Heading into the season, the hype was through the roof for the third-year back. Everything was set up for him to have his breakout season, establishing himself as one of the top backs in the league. We got a glimpse of what could be in store in Week 1 with a monster outing. Unfortunately, the season went down the drain rather quickly after that.
Between injuries and Swift’s own ineptitude/lack on instincts running the football, he’s been incredibly frustrating this season. However, against the Bears, he could be in store for a larger role. Jamaal Williams suffered a leg injury against the Panthers, leaving his status for Week 17 in some doubt. So Swift could be set to play a much larger role this week.
He just needs to go out and produce. His vision needs to be better, and he needs to be more decisive as a runner. The Bears run defense is not good, and the Lions are lined up to need Swift to step up in a game they pretty much have to win.