October 19, 2021

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Who has the advantage in Week 4?

The Chicago Bears (1-2) will host the Detroit Lions (0-3) on Sunday, where Chicago will be looking to rebound following a rough Week 3 loss to the Cleveland Browns. The good news is things get a little easier for the Bears against the Lions, but Detroit is a team that plays hard and won’t be an easy win.

When it comes to determining who wins football games, there are a number of factors that contribute to a victory. Solid quarterback play, winning the line of scrimmage, protecting the football and taking it away, controlling important situations and overcoming or taking advantage of an injury situation.

In our weekly preview series, Alyssa Barbieri from Bears Wire and Jeff Risdon from Lions Wire went deep into the matchup to determine who has the advantage at the five key factors for winning football games in the NFL.

Quarterback play

AP Photo/David Richard

Bears Wire: Matt Nagy is keeping his starting quarterback under wraps until game time in an attempt at gamesmanship, for whatever reason. If Andy Dalton is healthy, he’ll be starting. If not, it’ll be rookie Justin Fields, who would be making his second NFL start. Dalton has been limited in practice all week. While Dalton is questionable, it’s most likely that Fields will ultimately get the nod. Fields’ first NFL start was a complete disaster, where he was essentially thrown to the wolves by his own offensive play caller and was sacked nine times by the Browns. If the Bears want to get Fields going, they need to actually design a game plan that caters to his strengths, including utilizing his mobility, leaning on the run game and giving him chances to open things up downfield.

Lions Wire: Jared Goff continues to give ample ammunition to both his harsh critics and fierce advocates in every Lions game. Goff protects the ball well and throws with accuracy and zip, but he often takes the easy throw instead of trying to make more things happen. He ranks 29th in average air target yards through three weeks and the average completion of just 3.3 air yards is dead last. Goff has tended to have one really good half and one truly lousy half in each of Detroit’s three games.

Advantage: Push

Line of scrimmage

Kena Krutsinger-USA TODAY Sports

Bears Wire: The Bears defensive line is back at full strength this week with nose tackle Eddie Goldman returning from a knee injury that’s sidelined him for the first three weeks. Along with Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols, Chicago has one of the league’s best defensive lines. Even with Goldman’s absence, the three-man defensive front been solid against the run and in pass rush. On the offensive side, it couldn’t be more opposite. The Bears offensive line was atrocious last week, where they allowed nine sacks on Fields. Tackles Jason Peters and Germain Ifedi were turnstiles, and things weren’t much better among the interior, including center Sam Mustipher, who has struggled all season.

Lions Wire: Detroit prominently focused on building up the trenches. The offensive line features center Frank Ragnow, who is an elite performer due for his first All-Pro nod. Guards Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Jonah Jackson are plus-performers in run blocking. Rookie tackle Penei Sewell has played pretty well but does have issues with speed. On defense, the Lions three-man front has been effective at preventing easy run lanes, but it doesn’t generate much pass rush.

Advantage: Lions

Turnovers

USA Today Sports

Bears Wire: Protecting the football and taking the ball away have been points of emphasis for the Bears this season. Despite last week’s loss to the Browns, Chicago didn’t turn the ball over. But the defense also didn’t have any takeaways. Still, the Bears remain +1 in turnover differential. Chicago’s defense has showed they’re capable of taking the ball away multiple times in a game following their four-takeaway performance against the Bengals. Meanwhile, the Bears need to protect the football to avoid an upset.

Lions Wire: Detroit is even on the turnover ledger after registering the team’s first interception in Week 3 and not giving the ball away to the Ravens. Creating takeaways has been a coaching point of emphasis but thus far the defense hasn’t been very adept at making it happen. The offense has been impressive at not putting the ball at risk outside of a spectacularly bad gadget play. RBs D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams do not fumble.

Advantage: Bears

Situational

Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Bears Wire: The Bears offense has been atrocious all around, including in the red zone. They rank 26th in red zone efficiency, where they’ve scored just three touchdowns this season with a conversion rate of 32.43%. Things have been much better on defense, where Chicago ranks sixth in the red zone allowing opponents to score on 48.8% of their trips to the red zone. But when it comes to third down efficiency, things are pretty bad on both offense and defense. The Bears offense ranks 29th in third down efficiency while the defense ranks 26th in opponent third down conversions.

Lions Wire: The Lions are all over the map here, as you might expect with the NFL’s youngest roster and a rookie head coach. The red zone offense is fantastic, but the defense is just as bad as the offense is good; the Lions are 3rd in red zone offense, 30th in red zone defense. The script flips on third downs, where the offense is 30th but the defense is fifth. Penalties on special teams have crept up. Baltimore converting a 4th-and-19 to set up the game-winning FG is a pretty strong indictment of the situational defense.

Advantage: Lions

Injuries

Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Bears Wire: There’s encouraging news on the injury front for the Bears this week as Goldman returns to the starting lineup for the first time since the 2019 finale. His presence in the run game will be huge, especially against a good Lions offensive line. Safety Tashaun Gipson will miss his second consecutive game, but the Bears have good depth at safety, where Deon Bush should get the nod opposite Eddie Jackson, and Bush was impressive in relief of Gipson. Dalton remains a game-time decision, but Chicago also has Fields to lean on if Dalton can’t go. There are a handful of starters questionable, like outside linebacker Khalil Mack and receiver Darnell Mooney, but they should be good to go for Sunday.

Lions Wire: The only regular player on the active roster who might miss the game is OLB Trey Flowers, and the Lions have some depth at his spot. The team sorely misses left tackle Taylor Decker, who has been on I.R. all season with a finger problem. Top WR Tyrell Williams barely played one full quarter. The crew that’s out there now is healthy, but the Lions already lost top CB Jeff Okudah and his replacement, Ifeatu Melifonwu, too.

Advantage: Bears

Verdict: Push

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears should win this football game. They’ve got the more talented roster and have found plenty of success against the Lions under Matt Nagy. And yet, that’s not exactly the case. There are plenty of people picking Detroit to upset Chicago, which has everything to do with Nagy and the vibe surrounding the Bears following the team’s worst offensive outing in 40 years. Chicago is 5-1 against Detroit under Nagy, but a lot of those wins have been hard-fought battles where the offense and defense needed to do their part. The Bears should beat — and need to beat the Lions. But it’s no guarantee.

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