Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions
Saturday December 16, 21:30 GMT
TV - Live on Sky Sports Action and Main Event
Saturday spotlight for Chicago and Detroit
While the Vikings have impressed with their resolute defence and surprisingly powerful offence, and the Packers have provided drama with Aaron Rodgers' early season performances and possible return from a broken collarbone, the Lions and Bears have been left in the shade in the NFC North this season.
Both teams have a chance to seize the national spotlight this weekend when they meet at Ford Field on Saturday evening. Detroit can heap pressure on the Packers in their race to finish second behind Minnesota in the division and possibly steal a Wildcard spot. Both sides are currently on 7-6, and Green Bay face the Panthers in Charlotte on Sunday.
Stafford roaring in playoff charge
Two weeks ago the Lions suffered a peculiar loss to a Ravens team who look to be finding form. Detroit trailed by 20 at the half, drew to within a touchdown twice, before being blown out in the final quarter, losing 44-20.
Despite the final score, Matt Stafford was in red-hot form, throwing 20 consecutive completions, a team record, and finishing 24-for-29 with 292 yards and one touchdown in the box score.
His departure from that game due to a hand injury scuppered their fight back, and last week in Tampa he played under the "Questionable" tag, throwing for over 300 yards in a tight win over the Buccs.
He could be even more productive but for the lack of a consistently productive running game. Ameer Abdullah was a healthy scratch last week. Theo Riddick is a receiving threat, but the Lions lack a back who can control the pace of games.
Chicago can disrupt rivals plans
In contrast to the Lions, the Bears are manufacturing offence while minimising the passing game. Rookie Mitchell Trubisky is averaging just 168 yards per game, ranking last in the league among quarterbacks, and has thrown for just six touchdowns since taking over from Mike Glennon.
A lot of this is to do with supporting cast. Dontrelle Inman found himself as the leading receiver in Chicago a matter of weeks after signing for the team. Rookie tight-end Adam Shaheen has flashed in recent weeks following Zach Miller's brutal injury, but his emergence says a lot about the targets available to Trubisky.
Fortunately the Bears have a rushing attack, with another rookie, Tarik Cohen, supporting the relentless Jordan Howard in the backfield. Howard ranks fourth in the league in rushing yards, picking up seven touchdowns on the ground, two of those coming in last week's demolition of the fading Bengals.
The Bears have generally been competitive this season despite their record, and, with a few breaks, they could be .500 or above. Their defence keeps the opposition honest, restricting opponents through the air and on the ground, and could pose difficulties for Detroit's one-dimensional offence.
Detroit must win this game if they're to retain playoff hopes, but Chicago will not make it easy. The likelihood is Detroit will grind this out, but the Bears +5 on the Handicap market is my preference in this game. The Bears will want to upset their divisional rival and are coming off an encouraging performance against Cincinnati last week. Chicago +5 or more at 1.9720/21 is worth a look this week.
I also like the Bears on the Moneyline market at 3.185/40 or better. Detroit are fortunate to be within swinging distance of a playoff spot. Stafford makes them competitive, and the Bears will want to end their season if they can here.
Detroit's run defence has given up seventeen touchdowns this season, second most in the league. Jordan Howard had two touchdowns on the ground last week. He is worth a shot in touchdown markets on the Sportsbook, where he is available at Evens to Score a Touchdown in the game.
Mitchell Trubisky is also worth a punt in the First Touchdown Scorer market at 19/1 if you prefer longer shots as he can use his feet when required.
1pt on the Chicago Bears +5 or more in the Handicap market @ 1.9720/21 on the Exchange
0.5pt on the Chicago Bears in the Moneyline market @ 3.185/40 on the Exchange
1pt on Jordan Howard in the Anytime Touchdown Scorer market @ Evens on the Sportsbook
0.2pt on Mitchell Trubisky in the First Touchdown Scorer market @ 19/1 on the Sportsbook