TIME: 1:00 PM EST
LOCATION: Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois
BETTING LINE: DET -3
LIONS PLAYER TO WATCH
Marvin Jones Jr.
If you were fortunate enough to have Jones Jr. in your fantasy lineup last week, congratulations. He caught just 6 passes but found open space deep finishing with 205 yards and 2 TDs. He has to be in the lineup again this week against Chicago. As with the rest of their position groups, the Bears’ DBs tend to be in the training room more than on the playing field. Look for Marvin’s deep ball ability to capitalize on some rookie mistakes in the secondary.
CHICAGO PLAYER TO WATCH
Jeremy Langford is out indefinitely and Ka’Deem Carey missed significant practice time this week, so starting snaps will likely go to rookie Jordan Howard. Howard has made great use of his limited touches so far this season, averaging 5.6 yards on 12 carries. He’s also caught 6 passes for 56 yards, showing versatility in Vic Fangio’s offense. He did fumble last week against Dallas, but he’s been otherwise effective when he hangs onto the football.
LIONS POSITION GROUP PREVIEWS
Detroit’s last two first-round picks went towards bolstering their offensive line. LT Taylor Decker and G Laken Tomlinson are both still settling into the NFL, though last Sunday didn’t make the process any easier. Green Bay got to Stafford 3 times and hurried him 6 times at the fault of these two players. The passing attack still succeeded, thanks to Marvin Jones, Jr., but if Detroit is to win games, the OL needs to gel and mature more quickly.
TIGHT ENDS/WIDE RECEIVERS:
Eric Ebron is playing through a nagging ankle injury, so his effectiveness has been limited. With the retirement of Calvin Johnson, Lions fans have been grateful to see Marvin Jones, Jr. undertake the role of Stafford’s favorite target. A talented pair of coworkers in Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin will need to be engaged on Sunday as Jones will clearly have the attention of the Chicago secondary.
Forcing turnovers has been a problem for Detroit in their first three games. Veteran Don Carey forced a fumble and Glover Quin intercepted the Titans in week 2, but the season opener and the matchup with Aaron Rodgers left a zero in the takeaway column. Detroit’s run defense has been solid, but their opponents have scored all ten of their touchdowns through the air against the Lions.
GAME PREVIEW ANALYSIS
Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions struggled against Green Bay for the first 30 minutes of last week’s Division clash. The second half was a different story, however, as Detroit outscored the Packers 17-3, coming up just one touchdown short of forcing overtime. Coach Jim Caldwell will try to keep that momentum going this week against the Bears in ChiTown. His veteran safety Glover Quin said to the media this week, “Second half of Green Bay, that’s the way we can play. It’s just putting it together for four quarters.” There’s certainly no reason they shouldn’t be able to come out firing with that same intensity.
For Chicago, on the other hand, there are sixteen reasons why each week is an uphill battle. Eleven starters and five situation players missed practice time this week due to injury causing Chicago to stay busy on the free agent market throughout the beginning of the 2016 campaign. New signees continue to develop chemistry with their teammates as part of one of the youngest rosters in the NFL. This matchup with the Lions presents Chicago with their best chance to win thus far, but it is still against the odds. Even with Jay Cutler possibly returning in their second game at home, it’s hard to pick a dog in a fight that goes into it already wounded. My prediction is a steady 29-17 victory for the Lions at Soldier Field.
BEARS POSITION GROUP PREVIEWS
Starter Jeremy Langford and speedster Ka’Deem Carey are both out this week, leaving Jordan Howard stepping in to start. The Bears signed former Lion Joique Bell this week, so he will likely see most of the backup touches against his former team.
John Fox turned some heads in a press conference earlier in the week when he claimed that no starter is guaranteed. A reporter asked if Cutler would start as soon as he was healthy, to which he replied, “I don’t think there are any givens. And that’s no indictment on anybody.” We assume a healthy Cutler is the best QB on the roster, but the pressure on the players to perform is certainly increasing.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Alshon Jeffrey is the only wideout listed on the injury report, which makes this position the healthiest on offense or defense. When Brian Hoyer came in against the Eagles, the wideouts seemed capable of finding soft spots and driving the offense. Last week against the Cowboys, none of the receivers seemed able to really dig into their routes and create separation. Their performance is Chicago’s best chance at winning football games right now.
The entire defense is struggling, but the front seven has been particularly disappointing. They knew their secondary was going to be inexperienced, so they had to get to the quarterback quickly. However, the defense has only managed 4 sacks in three games this season. 3 linemen and 3 linebackers are working through injuries, making this the most injury-prone area on the depth chart.