Lions vs. Bears preview: Take advantage of wounded foe

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Alshon Jeffery leads Chicago with 271 yards receiving, and has five receptions of 20-plus yards.

James Hawkins breaks down Sunday's Lions-Bears game at Soldier Field (1 p.m. Fox/WJR).

Bears to watch

Alshon Jeffery, WR: The former Pro Bowler has feasted on the Lions in six career games — 41 receptions for 587 yards and five TDs. He has big-play potential and his 6-foot-3, 218-pound frame makes him a difficult cover. Jeffery leads Chicago with 271 yards receiving, and has five receptions of 20-plus yards.

Zach Miller, TE: The seven-year pro closed out 2015 with a strong second half and has picked up where he left off. He has a team-high 15 receptions, and will look to duplicate his 78-yard, two-TD performance last week against a defensive unit that already has allowed five TDs to opposing tight ends.

Jerrell Freeman, LB: Chicago’s linebacker unit was a mess last season, and Freeman has done his share to shore things up on the inside. He’s recorded double-digit tackles in two games and is tied for second in the NFL with 34 tackles. Freeman is strong against the run, has great instincts and is the X-factor on defense.


Ring the bell: With starting RB Jeremy Langford (Michigan State) reportedly out 4-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain and backup Ka’Deem Carey nursing a hamstring injury, the Bears signed former Lions back Joique Bell (Wayne State). Chicago is 30th in rushing (70 yards), but Bell could play a significant role against his former team depending on how quickly he gets acclimated to the offense.

First to worst: Theo Riddick and Co. struggled against Green Bay’s No. 1 run defense without starter Ameer Abdullah. It has an opportunity to get back on track as it faces a porous Chicago unit that has allowed the third-most rushing yards (142.7) and TDs (five).

Potent and penalized: The Lions offense ranks in the top five in total yards (413.7), passing yards (312.7) and points (27) but needs to cut down on penalties. It has been flagged 29 times for a league-high 294 yards.

Lackluster returns: The Lions special teams has yet to produce a momentum-changing play. Andre Roberts is No. 13 out of 16 qualified kickoff returners (at least one return per game) with a 20 yard average and No. 15 of 23 on punts with a 7.6 yard return average.

Turnover battle: The Lions are tied for 19th with a minus-1 turnover differential and are one of three teams that have forced a league-worst one (Seahawks, Giants).

Facts and figures

■ It’s been nearly a year since the Bears won at Soldier Field. They are on a six-game home losing streak following a 22-20 victory over the Raiders on Oct. 4, 2015.

■ The Lions have won the past six meetings, including the last three in Chicago. The Bears lead the series 96-71-5.

■ WR Marvin Jones leads the NFL with 408 yards receiving and nine receptions of 20-plus yards.

■ DE Kerry Hyder is tied for second in the NFL with four sacks with Vikings DE Everson Griffen. Broncos LB Von Miller is No. 1 with five.

■ QB Matthew Stafford has the third most passing yards (985) and is tied for third most TD passes (seven). He also ranks No. 5 on the career list with 170 TD passes for a player in his first 100 games (Dan Marino is No. 1 with 217).

■ If Bears QB Brian Hoyer (Michigan State) starts in place of Jay Cutler (thumb), it will be Hoyer’s first career start against the Lions.