On Sunday, Bears vs. Lions will kick off at noon CT at Soldier Field. Our Chicago Bears are coming off a shootout with the Miami Dolphins that featured Justin Fields breaking records. Despite the narrow defeat, we are all optimistic for the future and salivating over the thought of what Fields could become as he continues to grow into the NFL. And with that, we move on to the 2-6 Detroit Lions.
Bears vs. Lions Betting Lines
In the above table, I have noted the spread and the projected spreads. Projections are according to my four models (DVOA, EPA, Poisson, LinReg), PFF, and 538’s models for Bears vs. Lions. Why use so many different models? Because they serve as a crosscheck for each other. The more models that say something is a good bet, the more assurances you get. After all, that is what all of us gamblers want, assurances.
Bears and Lions Cover History
"Good coaches win. Great coaches cover the spread."
Since 2020, the Bears have been home favorites six times, with a record of 3-2-1 ATS. Additionally, they are 5-1 on the money line (Bears to win straight up) in these situations, and 2-4 on the over. While the Bears' betting stats under Matt Nagy are not exactly relevant to the current circumstances, I do think recent history is still worth considering. This year is the first season for new Bears' head coach Matt Eberflus. In his first nine games, Eberflus is 3-6 straight up, 4-4-1 ATS, and 5-4 on the over.
Since 2020, the Detroit Lions have been road dogs 18 times with a record of 9-9 ATS. Additionally, they are 3-14-1 on the money line (Lions to win straight up) in these situations, while they are 8-10 on the over. This year is the second season for Mr. Coffee himself, Lions' head coach Dan Campbell. So far in his head coaching career, he is 5-19 straight up, 15-10 ATS, and 12-13 on the over.
Bears vs. Lions Team Stats
Advanced stat rankings for the 2022 season are shown for the Bears and Lions here. This includes DVOA, success rates, EPA/Play, and an average ranking of all three for offense and defense.
Lions Positional Breakdown & Key Players
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. For example, from 2020-2022 Frank Ragnow ranks in the 84th percentile among all qualifying Centers.
The average Lions' offensive starter ranks in the 53rd percentile for their position from 2020-2022. Meanwhile, the average Lions' defensive starter ranks in the 45th percentile for their position from 2020-2022. The Bears' positional rankings can be seen in the “Extra Points” section.
· Amon-Ra St. Brown – Wide Receiver
· Frank Ragnow - Center
· Penei Sewell – Right Tackle
· Aidan Hutchinson - EDGE
· Jeff Okudah - Cornerback
· DeShon Elliott - Safety
· Kerby Joseph - Safety
Lions Scouting Report – Offense
Play-Caller: Ben Johnson
To get a better idea of the Detroit Lions' offensive attack, I reviewed the All-22 film from their Week 4 contest against the Seahawks. This offense heavily revolves around pounding the rock and taking deep shots in the passing game.
When running the football, the Lions lean heavily on outside zone and gap run concepts. They like to bring an extra offensive lineman onto the field to force the issue, but seem to be more successful running out of lighter formations. This is an offensive line that features three first-round picks who have met expectations so far in their careers. It is beyond me why they feel the need to bring extra linemen onto the field. The run game is very up and down on a play-to-play basis, but they do possess solid home-run ability.
In the passing game, the Lions also show a penchant to bring an extra offensive lineman onto the field (groan). They dial up a lot of shot plays to utilize Jared Goff’s big arm but clearly do not trust him to navigate a muddy pocket. There were multiple times in the game against the Seahawks where the Lions kept seven men in to block and only had three players running routes. Amongst the plays reviewed, one ended in an interception, two ended in scrambles or throw-aways, and two ended in completions. That sounds to me like they could have used another pass catcher on the field.
The Lions use play-action on 24.7% of Jared Goff’s dropbacks. That ranks 14th among 26 qualifying quarterbacks. Like most QBs, Goff shows a modest uptick in efficiency and aggressiveness while using play-action. His ADOT increases from 7.9 to 9.4, his yards per target increases from 7.1 to 8.5, and his PFF grade improves from 59.2 to 75.1.
While the Lions' run game ranks eighth in yards per carry and 12th in total rushing yards, I cannot help but think this is an underperforming aspect of their offense. Mainly because of how much talent there is across their offensive line. Across the first four games of the season, the Lions generated 656 yards (164 YPG) for 5.9 yards per carry on a rush success rate of 39.3% (18th). So, through the first four weeks, they were explosive but inconsistent. Since then, the Lions have generated 417 yards (104 YPG) for 4.1 yards per carry on a rush success rate of 44% (12th). So, in the last four games, they have become less explosive but more consistent running the football.
Lions Scouting Report – Defense
DC: Aaron Glenn
The Lions run a Cover 1 and Cover 3 heavy defense. They do not have many tells pre-snap as to whether their CBs are playing in man or zone. Regardless of the coverage concept, Jeff Okudah prefers to press up on the WR, while the other CBs prefer to give some space. That press technique was costly for Okudah against the Seahawks, as he covered DK Metcalf for much of the day and allowed him to catch three of four targets for 101 yards. On the tape, it seemed like Okudah really struggled to handle Metcalf’s size/speed combo (many CBs do).
The main reason that I mention this is because Chase Claypool is one of the few WRs in the NFL currently who could be compared to Metcalf athletically. Creating that matchup and taking advantage of it could pay dividends for the Bears.
The Lions' run defense is a mixed bag. They play an aggressive and downhill brand of football against the run. It almost feels like they aim to take away the run game to force opponents to pass. The only problem with that strategy is that they struggle to stop the pass. Their DL is big, strong, and good at filling up gaps. However, they have a penchant for giving up big runs. While they do well to plug gaps and attack downhill, the athletes in the front seven are not great when forced to move laterally. This means that they can be chewed up on cutback lanes and second efforts after missed tackles.
The linebackers lead the downhill charge against the run while the DL gives them clean shots at the RBs. But when asked to stack and shed, the Lions' lead LB, Alex Anzalone, prefers to slip the block and hope for the best. Anzalone is good at reading runs and filling gaps quickly but struggles when he needs to take on blockers directly. In coverage, the Lions' linebackers tend to play run first, meaning that they bite hard on the play-action and struggle to recover in their coverages. Opponents can make them pay for this in both man and zone coverages.
The pass rush has been nothing to write home about so far in 2022. Despite adding young talent along the DL in the form of Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal and ranking 10th in the NFL in blitz rate, the Lions currently sit second to last in the NFL in sacks and 23rd in the NFL in pressures.
Bears vs. Lions Summary and Prediction
The Detroit Lions came out swinging to start the 2022 season. Starting it off with a Hard Knocks appearance, the world simply fell in love with Dan Campbell and his motley crew of underdogs. But the Cinderella story has proven too good to be true through the first nine weeks. Injuries to key starters have surely derailed their plans to an extent.
But this is a squad that just upset the Green Bay Packers last week, the first time they have beaten the cheeseheads since 2018 (if we exclude Week 18 last season). This is a feisty opponent that plays a tough brand of football. But I am not sure that they have the horses to match what Justin Fields has been doing for the Chicago Bears lately.