After a 7-1 start, it’s doubtful the Chicago Bears thought they would need a win in Week 17 to make the playoffs. Even more doubtful they would also need an NFC North rival to lose.
The Bears must capture a victory Sunday as they take on the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, but also need the Minnesota Vikings to fall to the Green Bay Packers to play next week. A Chicago win and a Minnesota loss, would tie their division records, and give the Bears the edge in conference victories.
But Chicago will have to overcome their recent struggles, posting a 2-5 record over the past seven weeks.
Last week they may have gotten on track after dominating the Arizona Cardinals in a 28-13 win. The Bears defense did most of the work with cornerback Zach Bowman returning a fumble one yard for a touchdown, and newly dubbed Pro Bowler Charles Tillman bringing back an interception 10 yards for a score.
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Quarterback Jay Cutler went 12-for-26 for 146 yards and one touchdown, while Matt Forte had 12 rushes for 88 yards and a score. Cutler avoided an interception after throwing six in Chicago’s previous five games.
Then there’s the 4-11 Lions, who can snap a seven game losing streak, and thwart Chicago’s playoff hopes.
Detroit’s Calvin Johnson broke the NFL single-season receiving yards record last week with 11 receptions for 225 yards, but the Lions lost 31-18 to the Atlanta Falcons.
Johnson shattered the previous mark held by Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, and can add to his season totals of 117 catches for 1,892 yards and five touchdowns against Chicago.
Other than Johnson, it’s been a disappointing and strange season for the Lions. They have the top ranked passing offense in the league, gain the second most yards per game, but struggled to reach the end zone.
That has led to speculation around head coach Jim Schwartz’s job security. Reportedly he is safe, but a bad loss to Chicago may change ownership’s mind.
The game begins at 1 p.m. EDT and will be shown by FOX, or watch a live stream online by purchasing NFL Sunday Ticket Max.
Betting Odds: Chicago is favored by 3 points
Over/Under: 45 points
Prediction: The Bears defense should once again carry Chicago to a win, forcing Stafford and the Lions into early turnovers. Then they can keep their eye on Minnesota’s status.
Predicted Score: Chicago 24, Detroit 13