Before we get into this week’s episode, Bears vs. Lions, here is what you might have missed on last week’s episode of “As Halas Hall Turns”:
Week 2 – Bears vs. Bengals Summary
Wild Bengals wound the Chicago Bears elder Chief Commander, Andy Dalton, during a sneak attack. This leaves the understudy, Justin Fields, to lead the franchise forward. After calmly handling the Bengal attack, Justin Fields becomes the starting QB and true savior of the Chicago Bears.
Week 3 – Bears vs. Browns Summary
Fields has to prove his merit when coming across a group of rabid bulldogs while traveling through the Midwest. There is one problem though. The advisors are terrified of dogs. As they frantically climb up trees to get away from the fight, they yell instructions down to Fields. It is not enough as he takes many blows. He survives, but comes away with a mere flesh wound.
Fields’ advisors have betrayed his trust, forcing him to fight a battle alone that both he and the franchise are not yet equipped to handle. The result? Mass confusion, hysterics, and general loss of senses. The advisors search for answers when speaking with the public about what occurred. The public is eager to get answers but ends up leaving with more questions than they came with.
Bears vs. Lions Interlude
Queen Virginia is not pleased as her son George hurries to contain the damage. “We come bearing land! We come bearing promises of future castles and glory!” George pleads with the public. But the public is not buying these promises, as they know these lands and castles will remain outside of city limits.
These attempts to woo the public backfire, as criticism soars in from every direction. The allegations grow faster than the anger. “Fields should abandon the franchise!” “Where were his advisors?” “They must be held accountable!”
However, these cries fall on deaf ears. The franchise has never changed an advisor outside of the norms, and they do not plan to begin to now. The public is unsure whether any changes are occurring, but this is nothing new to them. They are used to being left in the dark by now.
The Lions are approaching at the gates, hungry for kneecaps and tired of only covering the spread. Judgment day is upon us.
Bears vs. Lions History
Oh, is there some history. The Bears and Lions first faced off in 1930. Back then, the Lions were actually the Portsmouth Spartans, at the time. These two franchises have met at least once per season in every season since 1930. That makes this the oldest running annual series in the NFL. But wouldn’t that title belong to Bears vs. Packers, you ask? Well, in 1982 the Bears and Packers never played each other due to the labor strike.
This game will be the 183rd matchup between the Bears and Lions. In that time, the Bears are 59-29-4 at home against the Lions (102-75-5 overall), with a +383-point differential. Over the past 10 years, the Bears are 5-5 at home against the Lions (9-11 overall), with a +33-point differential. The sheer thought that the Bears have a losing record against the Lions over the past decade hurts my soul. From 2013 through 2017, the Bears went 1-9 against Detroit. However, there is a remedy in the fact that the Bears have won five of the last six matchups.
In 2020, the Bears snuck into the playoffs with a record of 8-8. The Bears have the seventh-worst odds among all NFL teams to make the playoffs (+410) this season. They have the third-best odds to win the NFC North (+1,200), behind the Packers (-250) and Vikings (+300). Additionally, the Bears are in a tie for the fourth-worst odds to win the Super Bowl (+50,000).
In 2020, the Lions got the same results that they have for years. Early season hope, followed by crushing despair. After posting a record of 5-11, the Lions decided to change course. They traded franchise signal-caller, Matthew Stafford, to the Rams for two first-round draft picks and a defensive lineman. Oh wait, they also got downtrodden QB Jared Goff in the deal. The Lions have the worst odds among all NFL teams to make the playoffs (+3,500). They also have the worst odds to win the NFC North (+4,000). Additionally, the Lions are in a tie for fourth-worst odds to win the Super Bowl (+50,000).
Bears vs. Lions Betting Lines
In the above graphic, I have noted the spread and the projected spreads according to my two models, PFF, and 538’s two models for Bears vs. Browns. Why two models from one source? I like to use multiple models to crosscheck each other. The more models that say something is a good bet, the more assurances you get. That’s what all of us gamblers want, assurances.
I should note that my model is very hit or miss in the first three weeks of the season. There is just not enough data available on current roster production to avoid using projections to some degree.
Bears vs. Lions Team Stats
On average, the Lions’ offense is far from a powerhouse. Their total offense ranks 23rd in the NFL using DVOA, EPA per Play, success rate, and PFF Grades. They have the 20th ranked rushing offense, on average. Through the air, they have an average rank of 24th.
The Bears defense ranks 15th in the NFL using the same metrics for the other side of the ball. Against the pass, they have an average rank of 13th. On the ground, their defense ranks 17th.
The Bears offense comes in at 23rd, stuck in a tie with the Lions, using those same metrics. The Bears offense shows middle-of-the-road metrics for the ground game, ranking 15th across the four sources. However, their passing attack ranks 27th. (sigh)
Meanwhile, the Lions’ defense ranks 27th in the NFL. How fitting. The 27th ranked offense against the 27th ranked defense. Detroit’s defense has not been stout against the run, ranking 24th in the NFL. Additionally, they have struggled to stop passing attacks, ranking 20th against the pass.
Lions 2021 Roster
The “Pos. Rank” uses multiple position-specific stats to generate a relative ranking for each player at their position. The percentile is simply a representation of their rank, i.e. Jared Goff Ranks 24th out of 34 qualifying QBs. This results in a percentile of 38% (MATH = 1 – (21/34)). In the right-most column, you can see the stats used to generate the ranking.
Offensive line stats represent the entire unit, rather than any individual player. I believe that it is just too subjective of a stat to place statistical blame on individuals without knowing their assignments.
- RB: D’Andre Swift is a very good young RB. The second-year pro is coming into his own this season. He ranks sixth in touches, fourth in yards, 10th in yards per touch, and seventh in first downs per touch. His advanced metric do not bode as well, with EPA per play ranking 20th and RYOE ranking 19th. Swift is a major weapon as a receiver out of the backfield, and dangerous with the ball in his hands.
- TE: T.J. Hockenson is a clone of his head coach, Dan Campbell. Not really, but he does bear the resemblance of a young Dan Campbell. Hockenson is a top-five tight end in the NFL, currently. Hock ranks third in receptions, sixth in yards, and 12th in first downs per reception. However, he ranks 28th in yards per reception. His efficiency is lacking, but he has been a reliable target for Goff and is a very good athlete at the position.
- DL: The Lions DL boasts size and strength with Brockers and Williams on the inside. Brockers has been a good space eater in LA for the last few years. Former Bears great, Nick Williams, is having a good year ranking as the 22nd best iDL player in the NFL. Neither of these players are world-beaters, but both of them are solid to good NFL players. On the EDGE, the Lions employ Romeo Okwara and Charles Harris. Trey Flowers is currently injured. Okwara is having a strong season, ranking seventh in pressure rate and ninth in pass rush win rate. Harris is doing an admirable job filling in for Flowers ranking fourth in pass rush win rate, and eighth in pressure rate.
- QB: Jared Goff came in to take the reigns as part of the Matt Stafford trade. The former No. 1 pick has always been good enough to start, but not good enough to inspire. He ranks 21st out of 34 qualifying QBs. Goff ranks 10th in usage, meaning he is heavily relied upon for the Lions offense. That is the only category where Goff ranks in the top 10. His EPA/Play sits at 24th, success rate at 18th, and CPOE at 17th. We know what Goff is at this point. Good enough to beat bad teams, but not good enough to win against contenders.
- OL: Detroit’s offensive line was supposed to be a strength coming into the season. Then Taylor Decker went down with an injury. They still boast a lot of talent up front. At LT, Sewell is a first-round rookie with no ceiling. Next to Sewell, Jackson is in his second year after a rough rookie season. In the middle, Frank Ragnow is a monster of a man. At RG, Vaitai is yet to show the same form he showed in Philly in 2019. On the bookend, Matt Nelson is filling in until Decker returns, and has limited NFL experience.
- S: At safety, Tracy Walker has put together a nice first few games. The fourth-year pro is coming off his worst season in 2020. After two solid years in Detroit, Walker’s numbers fell off in 2020. He appears to be having a bounce-back season in 2021, as his figures have returned much closer to career norms. Among safeties, Walker ranks third in completion percentage allowed, 16th in yards per coverage snap, and 23rd in forced incompletion + interception rate. Across from him, Will Harris had struggled. Harris ranks 61st among 68 safeties, with his only redeeming category through three games being no missed tackles.
- WR: Kalif Raymond has led the Lions in snaps at the WR position. Followed by Quintez Cephus, and then Amon-Ra St. Brown. This group that has some potential, but potential does not always equal production. As of now, they rank near the bottom of the league in most categories. Raymond is 27 years old, and the Lions are his fifth NFL team. He has 4.34 speed, and is a deep threat to the Bears defense. Cephus is the opposite. The second-year player has the build and attributes of a possession receiver, lacking suddenness. His strengths are in his size, body control, and catching ability. Draft heads around the country fell in love with St. Brown going into the 2021 NFL Draft. The Lions snagged him in the fourth round, and he is yet to produce much in his three-game career. He is a smooth athlete with a variety of release techniques. He knows how to use his eyes to manipulate coverage, and how to run routes to get defenders off balance. St. Brown struggles against physical coverage due to his poor burst out of breaks and tendency to drift turns.
- LB: Alex Anzalone and Derrick Barnes are the presumed starters here. I say presumed, because starting LB Jamie Collins is no longer with the team. Anzalone had started previous games next to him, with Barnes recently filling in for Collins. Jalen Reeves-Maybin also filled in some for Collins, and could be an option there. There are many question marks at the linebacker position for the Lions. Anzalone spent his last four years in New Orleans. While he is a solid player, he is not going to be making up for many deficiencies.
- CB: Amani Oruwariye. Bobby Price. AJ Parker. Who are these people? Oruwariye and Price rank 21st and 31st in the CB rankings through three games, respectively. Oruwariye is the only CB to have started all three games. Targeted repeatedly in Week 1, he allowed five catches for 82 yards on eight targets. Since then, QBs have only thrown at him three times, gaining 32 yards. Price is a rookie UDFA who has impressed in the last two games after not playing a snap in Week 1. On the season, QBs have thrown at Price 12 times and only gained 25 yards. In the slot, AJ Parker is also a UDFA rookie. In 71 coverage snaps, QBs have thrown at Parker six times and gained 70 yards. This group is largely unproven. They have had some volatility, but not much success to rely on.
Bears 2021 Roster
- RB: David Montgomery has slowed his pace since coming into the season strong in Week 1. Despite that, he still ranks sixth among 38 RBs with 40-plus touches. He ranks sixth in touches, 12th in yards, and eighth in RYOE/Att.
- DL: The Bears DL (EDGE and iDL) are still a very talented group. Last week, they logged 11 pressures and four sacks. The emotional leader of the front, Akiem Hicks, looks like he’s playing for a new contract (because he is). Robert Quinn looks like his old self after his disappointing 2020 season. He currently ranks third among EDGE rushers in sack percentage. Which is good, considering that Khalil Mack hasn’t quite looked like himself as he is dealing with a foot injury. The return of Mario Edwards Jr. helped against the Browns, as he logged two sacks on only seven pass rush snaps. Eddie Goldman remains a complete mystery. As a team, the Bears rank third in the NFL with 11 sacks.
- LB: Roquan Smith is not human. He continues to look like one of the best linebackers in the NFL, in true Chicago Bears fashion. Alec Ogletree is a serviceable player, but he will not be ranking highly in many key statistical areas. I am interested to see if the Bears will get Danny Trevathan back from injury anytime soon. Ultimately, I am not sure how much better Trevathan is, but his leadership qualities on the field can only help.
- WR: The Bears WR room has really struggled. While all of the starters have remained healthy through three games, they have not produced. Star WR Allen Robinson is yet to gain more than 35 yards in a single game. In what is a contract year for Robinson, you have to expect that to change very soon. Darnell Mooney has seen a fair amount of volume (19 targets). However, a whopping 63% of those targets have come within 10 yards of the LOS. Goodwin is the most efficient on a yards per catch basis, but still ranks below league average. The Bears have lacked any semblance of a downfield attack, which is evident in the numbers.
- CB: At CB, Jaylon Johnson looks like the real deal. On the season, opposing QBs have targeted him only 14 times, allowing six receptions for 79 yards. Opposite him, Kindle Vildor let up 56 yards and two touchdowns in coverage against the Bengals in Week 2. Then, he gave up 39 yards on two targets against Cleveland. Vildor has not seen many targets (eight), which could be a good sign. However, when he QBs have thrown his way, he has allowed a 75% completion rate and 19 yards per catch. Not good. In the slot, Duke Shelley was victimized in Week 2 against the Bengals (eight targets, seven catches, 86 yards). Against the Browns, he played much better. Mayfield only targeted Vildor twice, only letting up seven yards. I hope that this is a sign of things to come.
- Moving over to the safety position, Eddie Jackson had a good enough day against Cleveland. The Browns targeted Jackson twice, gaining 30 yards on those two plays. Jackson had an ugly missed tackle on a Kareem Hunt run that hurt to watch. It is interesting that the Bears are using Jackson all over the field this year, with 52% of his snaps deep, 23% of his snaps in the box, and 17% of his snaps in the slot. Jackson has been noticeably more aggressive against the run, especially when lined up closer to the LOS. Gipson did not play against the Browns, giving Deon Bush a chance to play significant snaps. Bush played well in coverage, as the Browns targeted him four times but only gained 12 yards. Although, Bush missed three tackles, which is something the Bears cannot have at the safety position. Gipson may not play this week against Detroit, but the situation is not clear.
- QB: Fields is coming off a terrible game. There is no other way to put it. He could not do much of anything against the Browns in his first career start. It is clear that the game planning around Fields was sub-par (to put it lightly). The offensive line did not see many winnable situations. Just all around, the offensive coaching staff and offensive player execution was offensive. That is not all on Fields. He does deserve some amount of blame here, because players make the plays. When looking at it through that black-and-white frame, the Bears need more. Realistically, those around Fields, and most notably the coaching staff, need to do better. It is impossible to assess Fields’ play in an honest manner until that happens.
- OL: The Bears offensive line is a hot mess. In order to compare offensive lines as an entire unit rather than individually, I total the pressures and sacks allowed by the Bears. I then compared those pressures and sacks allowed by others who played the same opponents. The Bears ranked 27th in OL pass blocking performance, by this metric. Using Football Outsiders Adjusted Line Yards metric for run blocking, the Bears rank 20th. They also rank 13th in power success rate, 17th in run stuff rate, and 17th in penalty rate. It is safe to say the run blocking seems good enough to get by, while the pass blocking has recently taken a step back from the low bar that was set.
- TE: After being a key target Week 1, with six targets, Cole Kmet went largely unused the following two weeks (four targets). What is perplexing here is that Kmet has yet to be targeted more than 10 yards beyond the LOS. Jimmy Graham has logged 42 snaps through three games. He has not seen a single target since he hauled in one of two targets Week 1. His usage brings up significant questions about his contract.
Bears vs. Lions Head Coaches Cover History
Since 2019, Nagy has been a seven or fewer-point home favorite 13 times, posting a record ATS of 2-6. Nagy is 4-4 on the money line (Bears to win straight up) in these situations. He is 2-6 on the over.
Since becoming the Lions’ head coach, Dan Campbell has never been a seven or fewer-point road dog. This is not very surprising, considering he has only been the head coach for three games.
Bears vs. Lions Summary
Bears vs. Lions. Let’s get after it. Matt Nagy may be coaching for his job on Sunday. Matt Campbell may be running wild all jacked up on coffee and biting off kneecaps. It should make for a good time.
Lions – 16
Bears – 17
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