Bears vs. Lions Odds & Picks: It’s Still Not Time To Buy Detroit
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images. Pictured: Mitchell Trubisky
Bears vs. Lions
The Darrell Bevell era begins with the 4-7 Lions traveling to the Windy City to take on the 5-6 Bears.
Bevell, of course, will have the “interim” tag next to his name after the Lions relieved Matt Patricia of his coaching duties following a lackluster 13-29-1 record. The head coaching position in Detroit can simply be summed up as revolving door — Bevell will be the 10th head coach in Detroit since 2000.
While situational bettors might like the idea of backing a team after firing its head coach, I’m not as confident in that strategy going into this matchup: The Lions could still be without some key personnel and they’ve had their fair share of struggles against the Bears’ stingy defense in recent meetings.
There is no doubt that Patricia deserves a good amount of blame for Detroit’s poor play. Often, the Lions seemed to get out-coached and some of their in-game errors were simply unforgivable.
Perhaps the best example was in Week 9 when they allowed a 70-yard touchdown to Dalvin Cook with just 10 men on the field. And as a team that’s ranked 30th in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA, Detroit can’t afford to give opponents any freebies.
Opposing teams have had little trouble matriculating the ball down the field against a Lions defense ranked 27th with a -1.9 yards per point margin.
Detroit is also dead-last with a defensive drive success rate (DSR) of 79%. The significance of DSR is that it captures the percentage of down series that end up in either a first down or touchdown. Detroit’s defense doesn’t force many three-and-outs and on third down — its opponents are converting 45.26% of their opportunities, according to TeamRankings.com.
Only Jacksonville and Buffalo have allowed more total yards than Detroit over the last three games. As much as Chicago’s offense has struggled, it’s unlikely the Bears face much resistance against this Lions outfit.
Detroit’s struggles aren’t just limited to the defense. The Lions have gotten subpar performances from Matthew Stafford, which could be explained by examining wide receiver Kenny Golladay’s impact.
Detroit is 3-1 in games that Golladay has been able to start and finish — and Stafford posted a mark above 80 in ESPN’s Total QBR in three of those four games. That’s in sharp contrast with his 61.3 QBR this season, which puts him at 22nd in the league, and the Lions’ 1-7 record in games that Golladay was unavailable — and they’ll be without him again on Sunday.
Cornerback Jeff Okudah and defensive end Da’Shawn Hand will also be out. They could also be without defensive end Austin Bryant, who was a limited participant in practice but is listed as questionable. Defensive back Tracy Walker is also listed as questionable despite not practicing on Friday, as is running back D’Andre Swift despite not practicing on Thursday or Friday.
Stafford remains on the injury report for another week. He’s listed as questionable with a right thumb injury that could be affecting him more than originally thought: In his past two games, he finished with a disappointing QBR of 21.2 and 44.6, respectively.
The Bears are mired in a five-loss streak, yet are still only one game out the NFC’s final playoff spot.
Mitch Trubisky is set to start even with Nick Foles likely available to play. Trubisky wasn’t great by any stretch last week, but he did offer a rushing option to the Bears offense, which is something Foles simply can’t provide at this stage in his career. With 10 rushing yards against Green Bay, Trubisky eclipsed Foles’s season-long total of three rushing yards.
The 2017 second overall pick likely can’t do any worse than Foles under center: After all, Trubisky’s 53.1 QBR this season is higher than Foles, who sits at 43.6. With two fewer starts, Trubisky trails Foles by only one passing touchdown, and his nine-to-five touchdown-to-interception ratio is better than Foles’ 10-to-eight.
Chicago’s strength is clearly on defense: The Bears are fourth-best in defensive DVOA.
The Bears’ defense has been even better at home, where they’re allowing 19.2 points per game vs. 25.7 points on the road. This season, they’re limiting teams to just 223.7 passing yards per game. And with Golladay already ruled out, Stafford should find it even more difficult to operate against this defense.
Chicago’s run defense could get a boost with Akiem Hicks back in the fold. He suffered a hamstring injury in Week 10 but was a limited participant in practice on Thursday and Friday. He’s listed as questionable for Sunday along eight other players.
Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. has a toe injury and was a limited participant in practice along with right tackle Germain Ifedi, who has a leg injury.
Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney are dealing with knee injuries but are expected to play per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
As for the defense, it seems like the Bears’ entire linebacker group is on the injury report.
Khalil Mack is dealing with a back injury but did manage to practice on Friday, while Josh Woods has been battling a foot injury but was a full participant this week. James Vaughters joins the other linebackers on this week’s report due to a knee injury.
After being a full participant on Wednesday and Thursday, Vaughters did not practice on Friday, which could suggest his knee injury might have flared up. His status remains questionable.
The numbers show that Trubisky is no worse an option than Foles. The added dimension of him running the ball and being able to escape from a pass rush is something the Bears have sorely missed with Foles under center.
As for Detroit, Stafford’s performance without Golladay on the field is a factor, which I simply can’t ignore. Stafford’s performance over the last two weeks could suggest that his thumb injury is impacting his ability to throw the football effectively.
If you combine that with Detroit’s recent form in this head-to-head matchup, it’s even tougher to land on the Lions in this spot.
Since 2014, Stafford is just 3-7-1 against the spread when facing the Bears. And in his last seven games against them, he’s covered the spread only once.
The Bears still have something to play for, and Trubisky is desperate to prove he’s worthy of being an NFL starter.
However, many sportsbooks are adding some juice to Bears -3, so you’ll have to pay a bit of a premium to back the home team. It’s the Bears or a pass for me as I like their chances to tame the Lions and cover this number.
PICK: Bears -3