Thanksgiving Day football gets started with a classic NFC North rivalry game between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. On the heels of four consecutive wins, the Bears are 3-point favorites on the road with an over/under set at 44 points.
Those four wins, including last week’s Sunday night win over the Vikings, have taken the Bears a game-and-a-half clear of Minnesota atop the NFC North standings. That provides them with a little bit of a cushion, especially since Chicago should be favored in at least half of their remaining six games. However, it’s been a while since the Bears were playing meaningful games down the stretch, so we’ll have to see how they handle the pressure late in the season.
As for the Lions, just when we were ready to count them out entirely, they score a huge win over the Panthers last week. Detroit was fortunate to survive a 2-point conversion attempt by Carolina late in the game. Nevertheless, the Lions snapped a three-game losing streak and may be able to join the playoff race if they can string a few more wins together. Of course, pretty much every game would be a must-win from here on out.
Up To You, Matt
Despite the win over Carolina last week, the Lions appear to have lost running back Kerryon Johnson to a knee injury, at least for the foreseeable future. Johnson has emerged as a do-everything type back this year and has become one of Detroit’s most important offensive players. Without him, LeGarrette Blount could be forced into action as the team’s primary back, even though it’s been since he’s gotten 10 or more carries in a game.
There’s also the little issue of facing the Chicago defense, which is one of the best in the NFL against the run. The Lions may have no choice but to put the game in the hands of quarterback Matthew Stafford. The caveat, of course, is that Golden Tate was traded away and Marvin Jones is also out with an injury. Kenny Golladay was able to step up last week, but facing the Bears will be a much great challenge, especially when you factor in how good the Chicago defense has been this year at creating takeaways.
While the Lions are leaning on Stafford, the Bears may do the same with Mitchell Trubisky this week. Trubisky had a modest game last week against the Vikings, throwing two interceptions as the Chicago offense failed to find the end zone in the 2nd half. However, he could be a bounce-back candidate, as he was fantastic against the Lions two weeks ago when he threw for 355 yards and two touchdowns.
Of course, it’s worth noting that Trubisky is reportedly battling a shoulder injury. While the Bears expect him to play, the Lions may be encouraged to shut down Chicago’s rushing attack, something they did well a couple weeks ago, and force the Bears to beat them with Trubisky’s arm. Such a strategy may be Detroit’s best chance of winning.
Tight Turkey Day
The Bears have had a habit recently of struggling to score in the 2nd half of games. Even if they get out to a comfortable lead, Stafford will have a chance to lead the Lions back and make this game close. Knowing that Detroit has won four of their last five games on Thanksgiving, take a chance and bet on the Lions to at least beat the 3-point spread against the Bears.