Things have quickly changed for the Detroit Lions, who had an opportunity to grab the NFL’s best record just two weeks ago. Heading into their Thanksgiving matchup with the Chicago Bears, the Lions can ill afford a home loss in the NFC's competitive playoff picture.
The 7-4 Lions trail the Packers by one game in the division, and though they hold the current tiebreaker over the Seahawks and 49ers for the final wild-card spot, that won’t be the case if Detroit loses in Week 13. Seattle and San Francisco will face off on Thanksgiving night, guaranteeing one of the teams a better record than a 7-5 Lions team.
Detroit is expected to win, giving the visiting Bears seven points at Las Vegas casinos. Entering the contest with a losing record, Chicago could have trouble winning on the road, but they might be able to keep it close against a team that isn’t as good as their hot start might indicate.
The Bears rank near the bottom of the league in defense, and only the Jaguars allow more than their opponents’ scoring average of 27.5 points per game. Chicago has allowed more than 50 points twice in the last month, but they aren’t likely to have such a performance against Detroit.
Dominant offenses like those of the Patriots and Packers have had a lot of success against the Bears. However, Chicago’s defense has performed much better against mediocre offenses, especially in the last two weeks, allowing the Buccaneers and Vikings to score just 13 points each.
While Detroit is a much better team than Minnesota and Tampa Bay, they’ve actually scored fewer points this season. Since their 35-point offensive outburst in the season opener, the Lions haven’t scored more than 24 points in a single game. In the last two weeks, the team has totaled 15 points, failing to score a touchdown.
Calvin Johnson might be the best wide receiver in football, but he’s been banged up for much of the year, and failed to help the team do much offensively when healthy. A large part of the blame falls on the right shoulder of Matthew Stafford, who’s been outperformed by most starting quarterbacks. He ranks 26th in passer rating (81.0), 28th in completion percentage (58.8) and only four quarterbacks have thrown more than his 10 interceptions.
Even before losing to the Patriots and Cardinals, the Lions were struggling to get wins. They beat the Saints and Falcons by just one point apiece, and needed a touchdown with 29 seconds left to get a home win over the Dolphins.
Despite their recent struggles, the Lions still have the advantage over the Bears. Chicago has back-to-back 21-13 wins, but they barely got past two teams that have no chance of making the postseason.
The Lions have been hurt by a below-average offense, but they’ve won seven games in 2014 because of the league’s top defensive unit. It won’t be easy for Jay Cutler and Co. to score against a defense that allows just 17.3 points per game, as well as an average of 15.4 points in Detroit.
Chicago hasn’t scored more than 24 points since Week 3, and they haven’t reached 30 points in a game all season long. Cutler is one of the few quarterbacks that has thrown more picks than Stafford, and he could turn the ball over a few times against the Lions. Detroit is tied for fifth in the NFL with 13 interceptions.
The over/under for Thursday’s contest is 47.5 points. The only Detroit game to total more than 47.5 points was the team’s 35-14 victory in Week 1.
PREDICTION: Detroit over Chicago, 24-21