The 2020 Detroit Lions went into Thanksgiving hopeless. With a losing record in tow and several games behind the NFC North lead, all everyone in Detroit was thinking about is finally getting rid of the regime that, in its fourth year, had made zero progress and had, instead, plunged the team into the depths of irrelevancy once again. The “genius” running the team had made absolutely no progress on the side of the ball he was apparently an expert at. It was time for a change.
Oops, I’m sorry. There was a typo in that first paragraph. I wrote 2020 Detroit Lions when I actually meant the 2021 Chicago Bears.
Matt Nagy has just about run his course in Chicago. Even drafting a rookie quarterback hasn’t salvaged the Bears offense, which has ranked 29th, 22nd, and 29th in scoring for the past three seasons. The Bears are now 3-7 in Nagy’s fourth year, and with remaining games against the Cardinals, Packers, and Vikings (twice), a winning season appears to be out of the question.
Could the Lions be the death blow to Nagy as the Houston Texans were to Matt Patricia? Let’s take a closer look at the Bears.
Note: Now that we’ve passed the halfway point in the season, we will no longer be focusing on each team’s offseason.
2021 season thus far (3-7)
Week 1: Lost to Rams, 14-34
Week 2: Beat Bengals, 20-17
Week 3: Lost to Browns, 6-26
Week 4: Beat Lions, 24-14
Week 5: Beat Raiders, 20-9
Week 6: Lost to Packers, 14-24
Week 7: Lost to Buccaneers, 3-38
Week 8: Lost to 49ers, 22-33
Week 9: Lost to Steelers, 27-29
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Lost to Ravens, 13-16
Note: DVOA statistics do not include Week 11 yet
- 29th in points scored (16.3 PPG), 21st in points against (24.0 PPG)
- 26th overall in DVOA (27th on offense, 22nd on defense, 13th on special teams)
- Offensive DVOA: 29th in pass offense, 14th in run offense
- Defensive DVOA: 19th in pass defense, 21st in run defense
The Bears’ offense is nearly as bad as Detroit’s. They’re scoring 16.3 points per game to the Lions’ 16.0. They’re averaging 6.8 yards per pass attempt to Detroit’s 6.2. The only major difference is the Bears actually try to throw the ball downfield, averaging 9.2 air yards per pass attempt (2nd) to the Lions’ 5.8 (32nd).
Unfortunately for Chicago, that strategy hasn’t worked. The Bears are completing just 60.1 percent of their passes (30th) and are creating far too many negative plays. They’ve thrown nine interceptions to just seven touchdowns, and they’ve been sacked a league-high 36 times.
Elsewhere, the Bears are who they normally are. They’ve got a decent running game (4.6 YPC) with a talented pair of running backs (David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert). Their defense remains their main identity, although their efficiency is slipping both due to an aging roster and injuries. Their once-feared front seven is missing some key parts, and the guys who remain aren’t playing up to par.
They’re allowing 7.7 yards per pass attempt (27th) and 4.3 yards per rush attempt (16th). Worst of all, they aren’t creating turnovers at a rate to which we’ve become accustomed. They’ve forced just five interceptions (t-24th) and five fumbles. Those 10 takeaways rank just t-24th.
Key injuries: EDGE Khalil Mack (IR), LB Danny Trevathan (IR), G Germain Ifedi (IR), DT Akiem Hicks (ankle), WR Allen Robinson (hamstring), S Eddie Jackson (hamstring), QB Justin Fields (ribs)
Injuries have not helped the Bears one bit this year. Mack, Trevathan, Hicks, and Jackson represent four of the team’s best defensive players. Allen Robinson is inarguably the team’s best offensive player.
That being said, Chicago could be getting some of these players back this week. Jackson was limited in practice last week and was listed as limited on Monday. While Allen Robinson didn’t practice this week and was listed as not participating on Monday, he was listed as “doubtful” last week, suggesting he could be close.
The big news, obviously, is that rookie Justin Fields suffered a rib injury on Sunday. Reports suggest he’ll miss Thursday’s game and we’ll see Andy Dalton, instead.
Biggest strength: Run game
Despite a below-average offensive line, the Bears manage to run the ball quite well. While their overall stats are a bit boosted by Justin Fields’ mobility—he has 311 rushing yards on 5.6 per carry—Chicago’s backs do plenty of damage, too. Montgomery and Herbert have combined for 794 rushing yards, four touchdowns, and an average of 4.4 yards per carry.
Without Fields, the Bears won’t have as dynamic of a rushing attack, but it’s still an average unit at worst, and the Lions have struggled to stop the run lately.
Biggest weakness: Run defense
Since we already talked about the pass defense struggles, let’s talk about an advantage the Lions may actually be able to exploit. The Chicago Bears have the 28th ranked run defense by PFF grade, largely impacted by their 48.1 tackling PFF grade (28th). Typically their best run defender, Akiem Hicks, is underperforming and battling through injuries.
They’ve particularly struggled in the past five games. Check out these splits:
First 5 games: 103.8 rushing yards per game, 3.9 YPC, 3 rushing TDs
Last 5 games: 141.8 rushing yards per game, 4.5 YPC, 7 rushing TDs
It’s a great time to face this Bears defense when your running back also is hitting his stride.
Vegas odds for Sunday: Bears by 3.5