The 4-8 Chicago Bears will play host to the 9-3 Detroit Lions on Sunday, and despite their respective records, these teams are not far removed from a nail-biter just a few weeks ago. In Detroit, the Bears held a lead until the final minutes, but the Lions were able to turn it on when it counted. However, coming off their bye week, there is optimism that Chicago will earn their second consecutive divisional win.
With the Lions in contention for the first-place seed in the NFC, the Bears can expect to see everything Detroit has to offer, but Chicago can pull off the home upset if they accomplish the following three keys to success:
The Chicago Bears offense needs to expand Justin Fields' role
Since returning from his thumb injury, Justin Fields has attempted 7 passes per game that traveled 10 or more yards downfield, a figure that was negatively influenced by a screen-heavy offensive game plan against the Minnesota Vikings. On Monday Night Football, Fields and the offense did enough to help the team secure their first divisional win under Matt Eberflus, but the game plan frequently took the ball out of the quarterback's hand. Throughout the night, Fields attempted 22 passes within five yards of the line of scrimmage, including 17 attempts at or behind the line of scrimmage.
Fields has been effective passing further down the field (of his 14 passes that traveled further than 10 yards, eight were caught for 148 air yards and a touchdown with no interceptions), but the offense needs to lean on his playmaking abilities as a passer more often. Fields has had a great connection with D.J. Moore, who is one of just four players in the NFL to have 1,000+ receiving yards and 14+ yards per catch (Tyreek Hill, A.J. Brown, Mike Evans).
In terms of his production on the ground, Fields had his best game of the year the last time these teams faced off, where he eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time in 2023. As the regular season comes to an end, the ability to run the ball is often a key determining factor, and utilizing Fields' abilities as a rusher will help diversify an already well-rounded running back room.