The Detroit Lions got utterly embarrassed on Christmas Eve against the Carolina Panthers, losing 37-23. While this loss did not eliminate the Lions from the playoffs, it definitely made it more difficult for the Lions to get in. The Lions got everything they needed to happen to take control of a wildcard spot. The New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Commanders all lost, and they currently are ahead of the Lions in the wildcard race. To still make the playoffs, the Lions will need to win their final two games and get some help from teams like the Commanders and the Seahawks. This starts with the Lions final home game against the Chicago Bears.
The Bears are in last place in the NFC North, and currently have a 3-12 record. The Bears have lost their previous eight games, and lost last week to the Buffalo Bills, 35-13. While their record is poor, the Bears have a young group that will benefit from more experience. If the season ended today, the Bears would have the second overall pick in the draft. This pick could drastically help an already young team.
Here are some keys for the Week 17 matchup.
Stop Justin Fields
Every week, Bears’ quarterback Justin Fields has a ridiculous highlight run. Against the Lions in the first matchup in November, Fields gashed the Lions for 147 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Against the Panthers, the Lions could not stop the run and gave up 320 rushing yards, a franchise record for Carolina. The Lions will need to reset their run defense for the Bears. Justin Fields and the Bears can easily take advantage of a weak run defense. If the Lions can revert to stopping the run like they had during their 6-1 turnaround, they will likely win the game.
The Lions looked flat against the Carolina Panthers, especially the defense. In games prior, the Lions had gained a snappiness that was not seen in the first seven games of the season. During the 6-1 run, the whole team looked energized and fired up. This was not seen against the Panthers. It was as if the team had run into a brick wall. It was very uncharacteristic for the team to not compete. Even when the Lions were losing early on in the season, they competed. If the Lions want to maintain their playoff hopes, the competitiveness and grit must return. Expect head coach Dan Campbell to bring this energy back to the team.
Regardless of if this team makes the playoffs, I think it is essential for the Lions to win their final two games against the Bears and Packers. Having a 5-1 record against you own division is a massive stride in the right direction. It still would be disappointing if they do not make it, but it is important that put themselves in position to get a spot. I would rather the Lions not get in because another contender like the Commanders and Seahawks earn it, rather than losing one of their final games. The effort in these final games, regardless of outcome, is crucial.