We’ve already had an in-depth discussion on what both the offense and defense must do in order for the Chicago Bears to beat the Detroit Lions, and now it’s time to take a deeper look into the game’s pivotal matchups.
In this episode, Will DeWitt goes through his weekly five matchups and three keys that you must pay attention to in this week’s game.
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First up, let’s analyze the five critical matchups.
1. Kyle Fuller vs Marvin Jones Jr.
Surely this is a matchup that’s been circled for both teams entering the game, especially after Fuller’s poor performance against Green Bay. In coverage this season, Fuller has given up the third-most yards (527) according to Pro Football Focus. Last week, Fuller allowed Hundley to complete 80 percent of passes his way.
Expect the Lions to follow suit.
Matthew Stafford has thrown six touchdowns this season when throwing along the right sideline – most of any area of the field. Four of those touchdowns have gone to Marvin Jones and the wideout averages 18.1 yards per catch along that right sideline.
Jones was held to only one catch last week against Cleveland, and one has to expect Detroit will want to get their explosive playmaker the ball in this one.
Hoping Fuller has a short memory and can put together a good game, but I expect him to be attacked far too often. When that occurs, bad things happen.
Edge: Marvin Jones Jr.
2. Dontrelle Inman vs Darius Slay
Looking at another matchup along the outside, it’s only taken one game but Inman has proven he’s the Bears’ best receiver. He caught six balls for 88 yards, and opened up the intermediate passing game for Chicago as his average depth of target was 11.6 yards (according to PFF).
As warned in the game preview, surely Detroit knows Inman is the Bears’ only true threat along the outside (unless Dowell Loggains remembers Tre McBride is on the roster) and will attempt to shut him down. Slay is the man for the job.
Quarterbacks only have a 62.4 passer rating when throwing his way, and the cornerback has four interceptions to go with a whopping 13 passes defended.
Inman does have a three-inch height advantage over the corner, which gives some hope in this matchup. However, I see Slay taking control in this one as the focus will be to take away #17 all game long.
Edge: Darius Slay
3. Adam Shaheen vs Jarad Davis
Welcome to the matchups episode, Adam Shaheen! When talking to the guys over at the Detroit Lions Podcast, I found out that the glaring weak spot for the Lions’ defense has been defending tight ends.
As a unit, Detroit has given up the third-most yards to opposing tight ends on the season, and that’s largely due to Davis’s struggles containing tight ends in zone coverage. I know exactly what you are thinking … “Man, I wish we had Zach Miller.” Me too, me too.
Shaheen did see the most snaps of his young career last week. Expect that trend to continue. Davis has given up a number of plays to tight ends down the seam this year, and even though we haven’t seen Shaheen run that sort of route yet, it may be time to open up the route tree and see what the rookie can do.
According to PFF, Davis is 81st of 85 linebackers in coverage and has missed a staggering 13 tackles this season. So even if Shaheen can’t make a big play downfield, there’s potential to rack up the yards after catch after a short throw underneath.
Edge: Baby Gronk, Chipotle Man, Shaheen Machine (whatever you call him)
4. Sherrick McManis vs Jamal Agnew
Rejoice! Chicago’s special teams ace is set to return. The timing could not be better as Detroit’s Agnew is the NFL’s leading punt returner who averages 18.3 yards per return with two returns going for touchdowns.
Agnew has that elite top-end speed that allows him to find the open space and take off. He also is a tough runner that is difficult to take down.
This is the perfect week to get McManis (the special teams’ captain) back. He’s a sound tackler with high IQ in return coverage. He’s always near the ball and makes plays.
In his place, DeAndre Houston-Carson has stepped up in a big way. Now, having both of them out there sures up a Bears’ kick coverage unit that allows the second most yards (12.6) per punt and fourth most yards (26.6) per kickoff returns.
Edge: Sherrick McManis
5. Bears Coaching Staff vs Bears Players
Here’s my weekly “outside the box” moment, but in reality, it’s a true matchup within the game. In order for this Bears team to succeed, they need the benefit of good coaching decisions. Whether it be smarter play calling by Dowell Loggains, improved clock management by John Fox, or even knowing when to challenge a play and when to let it be, the Bears players deserve better than what they’ve been given.
Even on defense, I’m baffled by the fact Christian Jones will continue to call plays, not bashing on him, but rather the decision to continue to assign that task to a player who struggles with play calls.
Can Dowell Loggains find a way to not allow the defense to dictate what the offense is doing, but rather the other way around? Can he get the best players on the field and create a game plan that gets the most out of those players?
Can Chicago’s coaches put their players in a position to succeed? We’ll find out, but if the past has been any indication … we know what’s in store.
Edge: There’s no real winner here.