It’s very easy to forget this as the teams prepare for a first place vs. last place battle in the NFC North standings, but the Lions have absolutely owned the Bears lately.
Detroit has beaten Chicago nine out of 10 times since 2013, although all but two of the wins have been one-possession games.
Oddsmakers, however, have the Lions as underdogs by nearly a touchdown, with good reason. The teams are on the opposite ends of two-game streaks, as the Bears easily beat the Jets and Bills, while the Lions were pushed around by Seattle and Minnesota.
Here are five things to watch Sunday at Chicago (1 p.m., FOX, WJR 760):
1. Return of the Mack
The most impactful player of the Bears’ defense appears to be headed for a return as Khalil Mack made a full appearance to practices this week after missing two games with an ankle injury.
Lions coach Matt Patricia says Mack’s length and smoothness on the outside rush are unique traits. Quarterbacks think they are a safe distance away and the former Raiders standout has the ball.
2. Beleaguered backups
Offensive guard T.J. Lang (neck) and cornerback Darius Slay (knee) missed practices this week in Allen Park and their statuses are up in the air.
If they can’t go, backup lineman Kenny Wiggins and cornerback Teez Tabor will see more snaps, which hasn’t been a good things lately for the defense.
Tabor has been picked on throughout the season, including in limited action last week against the Vikings.
Wiggins has been in mop-up duty most of the year, but contributed to a dismal day last week for the offensive line, which served up 10 Minnesota sacks.
3. Which Mitch?
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has been up and down in Year 2.
His prowess in the running game is a steadying factor for the team, but he’s had some stinkers through the air, connecting on 26-of-50 passes in a loss against New England and a pair of two-interception games this year.
However, he also threw six touchdowns against Tampa Bay and three against Miami, so he can get hot.
4. Not that special
The Lions addressed recent woes by firing special-teams coordinator Joe Marciano on Monday.
The void will be filled by various members of the coaching staff and led by his assistant Devin Fitzsimmons.
The Lions have been dismal and undisciplined in the coverage and return games, but a successful fake punt run by Tavon Wilson was among the highlights last week.
Could more trickery be afoot?
5. Unsung hero?
The Lions need a spark to turn this season around after two tough losses.
It’s weird to say about the players with the second-biggest salary cap figure on the team, but defensive end Ziggy Ansah could be a candidate for an unexpected spark.
Long wrote off by many in the fan base because of his long injury history, Ansah has sacks in his last four games and 10 sacks in his last eight.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.