Happy Thanksgiving to all you NFL fans out there. Today is a day for four F’s. Friends, family, food and football. Especially Detroit Lions football.
The team from the Motor City has played on Thanksgiving 81 times over the years and have played on the holiday every year since 1945. Their overall record is 37-42-2. They have gone 5-8 against their 2021 Thanksgiving Day opponent, the Chicago Bears, on the holiday. The last time they beat them on Thanksgiving was in a 34-17 victory in 2014. The Lions last overall win on the holiday was a 16-13 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
This year the Bears (3-7) travel to Ford Field for the 14th time on Thanksgiving to take on the Lions (0-9-1).
This game will pit two of the NFL’s worst teams, and worst offenses, against one another. The Lions have the worst record in the league and are the only winless team remaining. They average 16 points per game, which ranks 30th, ahead of only the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans.
The Bears are tied for the 26th best record in the league with their three wins and are 29th in scoring offense at 16.3 points per game.
Detroit is hoping quarterback Jared Goff can return after missing last week’s game against Cleveland with an oblique injury. Despite how bad he has played all year, his replacement Tim Boyle may have been worse.
In the Lions’ 13-10 loss against the Browns, Boyle went 15-23 for 77 yards and two interceptions in his first NFL start. Tight end T.J. Hockenson, who leads the team with 499 yards receiving on the year, had 51 of those 77 yards.
The offense continues to run, literally, through D’Andre Swift. The second-year pro out of Georgia is coming off a career-high 136 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Browns. This was after he set a career-high the week prior with 130 yards versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. On the year, Swift is 16th in the league with 555 rushing yards. He also leads all running backs with 53 receptions.
Whoever is under center will have to rely heavily on Swift and short passes to Hockenson as Chicago features one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. They are tied with fellow NFC North foe Minnesota with 31 total sacks to lead the NFL.
Linebacker Robert Quinn is coming off a 3.5 sack performance against the Baltimore Ravens and leads the team with 10. That total is good for fifth in the league and is the fifth time in his career that he has reached double digit sacks. Fellow linebacker Khalil Mack is also in the top 20 in the NFL with six sacks, but is out for the year after being placed on injured reserve with a foot injury.
They also have one of the best tacklers in the NFL as linebacker Roquan Smith is third in the league with 110 tackles.
As for Chicago’s offense, they will be led by veteran QB Andy Dalton after rookie quarterback Justin Fields injured his ribs last week.
He will likely lean on running back David Montgomery. In the Bears’ Week 4 24-14 win over Detroit, he rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns. On the year, Montgomery is 26th in the league with 430 yards despite playing in only six of Chicago’s ten games.
Dalton will also likely look to Darnell Mooney. The second-year pro out of Tulane had a career-high 125 yards on five receptions in that Week 4 contest against the Lions and leads the Bears with 571 yards on the season.
The Bears offense should be able to feast on the Lions as they have one of the worst defenses in the league. They give up 27.3 points per game, which ranks 30th in the NFL. They also have the 27th ranked total defense and are the second worst team in the league against the run, allowing over 140 yards per game on the ground.
One of the few bright spots on the Detroit defense has been cornerback Amani Oruwariye, who is tied for fourth in the league with four interceptions.
Injuries will have an impact on this game.
For Chicago, they will be without defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (ankle) and running back Damien Williams (calf) on top of Fields and Mack. Wide receiver Allen Robinson (hamstring) is doubtful while wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (shoulder) and safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. (hamstring) are questionable.
For the Lions, on top of Goff being questionable, he is joined by running back Jermar Jefferson (ankle) with that designation. As for players who are out, they include offensive tackle Matt Nelson (ankle), guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai (concussion), cornerback AJ Parker (ankle), linebacker Trey Flowers (knee) and wide receiver Trinity Benson (knee).
Now time for the prediction.
I think the Bears will come out and score early while Detroit struggles with whoever is under center. In their Week 4 matchup, Chicago jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead at halftime and led 21-0 in the third quarter before the Lions scored a touchdown.
Chicago’s head coach Matt Nagy, despite being on the hot seat, has an almost sparkling record against the Lions as he is 6-1 versus his NFC North rival while going one game under .500 against the rest of the NFL.
Detroit’s first year head coach Dan Campbell is still searching for his first NFL win as a head coach and hopes to spark something on the holiday.
I think Chicago’s offense will do just enough behind the legs of Montgomery while their defense will wreak havoc and add to that league leading sack total.
Detroit will try to keep it competitive, but just doesn’t have the weapons to be a powerful offense.
Nagy will improve to 7-1 against Detroit and the Bears will snap their five game losing streak while the Lions will be left searching for their first win of the 2021 season.
Bears 23, Lions 17.
All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com and Pro-Football-Reference.com.