Week 17 sees the last game of the 2015 season for these two NFC North rivals, and a game that will help define who gets which pick between 9th and 14th in the upcoming draft. Detroit and Chicago are currently set to receive the 13th and 14th picks, and depending on the results of fixtures this weekend it could see either team move up to the 9th, or down/stay at 14. The Lions have had a busy season in the news; letting star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh leave at the end of 2014 through free agency and fired their Offensive Coordinator; Joe Lombardi, alongside offensive line coaches Jeremiah Washburn and Terry Hefferna in week 7 prior to a International series game in London against the Chiefs that dropped their record to 1-7. During the first few weeks of 2015, we also saw Quarterback Matthew Stafford benched in place of Dan Orlovsky. Since the firing of the above mentioned coaches, the Lions promoted assistant coach Bob Cooter to Offensive Coordinator, and there’s been a turnaround in both the Lions’ rushing and passing attack. The Lions; although not gaining hundreds of yards per game on the ground have managed to have the leading rusher in 4 of the 7 fixtures they’ve played since the Week 8 Bye. To accompany this Matthew Stafford has also been the leading passer for 4 of 7. The key to this has been the balance; the Lions haven’t eclipsed 100 yards rushing in a game, however the way that they’ve been using their backs in the passing game has allowed them to move the sticks consistently and stay in the game. They also accomplished the small feat of beating the Packers at Lambeau Field; the first time they’ve done this since December 22nd 1991. They currently hold the leagues’ 18th Offense ranked in scoring and Yards Per Game, which has a split of 9th in passing, and 31st in rushing; the reasoning behind this; lots of passes to their running backs The Bears have been…well, the Bears! Quarterback Jay Cutler has been balling out in games against poor opposition, and throwing picks at inopportune times. He did however manage to beat the Packers! Which is a feat in itself for Cutler, and was sorely missed in Week 3’s game against the Seahawks due to injury. The Offense currently ranks in at 12th in rushing; off the back of both Jeremy Langford and my fantasy favourite; Matt Forte (158 points off of 12 games; not bad!), and 22nd, 20th and 23rd in Scoring, Yards Per Game and Passing Yards respectively. The Bears also have a middle-of the pack defense; ranked 16th overall in the NFL, so it’s just been a case of playing against great opposition frequently that the Bears record sits at 6-9 this year; they took a beating from the Seahawks, the Cardinals and Vikings. I’d like to add that the Lions faced a similar beatdown from the Cardinals, but held the Seahawks to only 10 points in Week 4.
Keys to the Game
The run game
The Bears have been run first all season long; to try and keep the ball in their possession and not force Jay Cutler to go air-mess-things up on them. Will this work against the Lions’ Defense who currently rank 19th against the run, or will the Lions give the Bears a taste of their own medicine by running the ball against the Bears 25th Ranked rushing defense
Will Jay Cutler stay mistake free in this game? Will Matt Stafford capitalise on playing against the 29th Ranked pass defense by getting some scores through the air?
Calvin Johnson’s last game?
Many are saying this could well be Calvin Johnson’s last game in a Lions’ Uniform due to salary cap issues, I’d hate for this to be his last game, but we’ll soon see in the off-season
Matchup to watch
Lions Receivers vs Bears Secondary
The Lions’ receiving core; when they put it all together can go off. They’ve accounted for 29 TDs this season. Calvin Johnson holds 8 of these, followed by Golden Tate, and Eric Ebron, I’d love to see the Bears try and stop this attack.
The last time these two teams played it came down to the wire in a high scoring matchup. I predict more of the same, however the Lions will take it. Bears 34-38 Lions