I’m not going to make this complicated. I want to make it as easy as possible for the Detroit Lions to follow my request.
So here it is.
I want the Lions to do three things Sunday against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. That’s it. Just three measly little things. For me.
If the Lions pull them off, they will almost certainly play a good game and give themselves a chance to win.
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First thing: Keep Matt Nagy’s offense down
All right, let’s get this out of the way. I’m picking the Lions to beat the Bears in a close, low-scoring game. Why? Mostly because Chicago’s offense is trash. Actually, that’s not fair to trash, which usually has enough stored energy to burn and keep you warm. The Bears’ ice-cold offense can’t move the ball and can’t score. Justin Fields and Andy Dalton have combined to throw one touchdown pass.
If the Lions’ defense plays anywhere near as well as it did against the Baltimore Ravens — and no, I don’t want to hear about rushing three on fourth-and-19 — that alone should be enough to win this game and effectively end coach Matt Nagy’s tenure’s since the Bears (1-2) face one of the toughest stretches (Raiders, Packers, Bucs and 49ers) over the next four weeks. If Nagy can’t beat a bad team like the Lions, there’s little chance he survives past his Week 10 bye (though the Bears have rarely, if ever, fired a coach midseason).
Second thing: More Hock
T.J. Hockenson has to get the ball more than twice in this game. The Pro Bowl tight end caught two passes on two targets for 10 yards against the Ravens, who gave him plenty of double-teams. Hockenson is by far the Lions’ most dangerous weapon in the passing game. It’s inexcusable for offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn to fail to find a way to get Hockenson involved in the offense more.
Darren Fells had more yards than Hockenson. Yes, Lynn got more production out of the running backs with Hockenson locked down. But if the Lions have any hopes of explosive plays, they have to free Hockenson.
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Third thing: Capt. Swift
Dan Campbell needs to make D’Andre Swift the official starter. Campbell played down the title of starter when I asked him a few days ago why Swift hasn’t at least been given the nominal role. But I think it matters to players that they’re on the field when the game starts. The first few plays are scripted anyway, so there’s no reason — beyond deference to respected veteran Jamaal Williams — Swift shouldn’t be starting.
I’d like to see Swift be given the starter role and see whether he responds by stepping up and realizing more of his potential. Swift is having a fine season. He’s on pace for 1,637 yards from scrimmage, but he hasn’t had that one truly explosive, killer game I know he’s capable of. What better place to break out than the home of Walter Payton, one of the early prototypes for dual-threat running backs in the Super Bowl era?
Contact Carlos Monarrez at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.