STAR PREVIEW Thurs: Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions

ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.

Nere we go with the annual turkey tear up in the Motor City with the Lions as usual playing at home on Thanksgiving a tradition that dates back to 1934 when the then owner of the Lions G.A. Richards scheduled a holiday matchup between the Lions and the Bears. The Bears, then the defending back-to-back world champions, beat the Lions 19-16 in front of 26,000.

Now, more than eight decades later, Thanksgiving football has become a staple in Detroit with the Lions going 37-42-2 in the annual holiday classic and we have come full circle for this year’s contest although with the two franchises rocking a combined 3-16-1 record it hardly sets up as a classic.

There are plenty of narratives surrounding this game not least that this could be Bears head coach Matt Nagy’s last game in charge as Chicago enter this game on a five game losing stretch and with a 3-7 record. That record is considerably better than the one the Lions hold though as their sole “success” this year comes via a tie in Pittsburgh two weeks ago in a game neither side looked as though they wanted to win.

Those are a few of the storylines and not unusually at this stage of the NFL season there are injuries on both rosters with the Bears playing their back-up quarterback in Andy Dalton and the Lions not sure who will be starting under center, starting quarterback Jared Goff still suffering from an oblique injury and his presence will be a game time decision. If he can’t go then we’ll see popgun-armed Tim Boyle once again.

The sides have already met this year at Soldier Field in Week 4 where the Lions fell behind early on eventually trailing 21-0 until losing by 10 in a 24-14 game that saw both Darnell Mooney and David Montgomery have big games for the Bears. Montgomery racking up 106 yards on the ground and two TD’s and Mooney 125 yards receiving. Of that pair Montgomery enters the game fitter with Mooney on the questionable list although he is expected to play.

Since that game the wheels have really fallen off the Bears, hence the Chicago fans and media have become increasingly restless with Nagy and they enter this game on the back of a five-game losing streak. The offence in particular has struggled even when rookie quarterback Justin Fields took over from Andy Dalton although Dalton is now restored to the starting position due to a Fields injury. Let’s not kid ourselves though the Bears passing offence is far from dynamic and even against the Lions anaemic pass defence they may struggle given that they rank 29th in the league in scoring with 16.3 points per game.

If the Bears are to put points on the board in this game it could be down to Montgomery again to show his worth and kick start the Bears offence. Montgomery only put up 67 yards on 15 touches Sunday against the Ravens, but he still dominated the backfield and Baltimore can be tough to run on. Here Montgomery swaps a tough draw for a relatively easy one especially as the Lions are short-handed with their run defence. Mooney if he does play will be a downfield threat as his game is built on big plays (he has speed to burn) and Detroit have conceded the league’s eighth-most 20-yard-plus completions (38).

What of the Lions who are still searching for that elusive first victory under first-year coach Dan Campbell who at times has thrown caution to the wind in an attempt to win a game with a roster that lacks quality at the skill positions. Going into this Thanksgiving game they will be the 13th side in NFL history to enter this point in the season without a win.

Their best chance of losing their win virginity this year comes via the running game as their pass offence is misfiring badly with neither of the quarterbacks who could start this game – Goff or Boyle – inspiring any confidence. Detroit ranks 31st in the league in third-down conversion rate, ranks last in pass completions of 25 or more yards, and 30th in red-zone touchdown percentage. The Lions mustered 19 points against the Rams in Week 7, which was actually the only time they have scored more than 17 points in their last nine games.

This isn’t the fearsome Bears defence of old though and their run defence isn’t imposing and that gives the “hot-hand” in the Lions backfield D’Andre Swift a chance to build on the ground work that he has completed over the past two weeks. Over the past two weeks Swift has 130 yards (on 33 carries) and 136 yards (14 carries) on the ground while catching just six passes for five yards. With the Bears coughing up 4.65 yards per carry this year and nearly 140 yards per game Swift ought to be able to continue his progression within the running game.

With the state of the two passing offences this could well turn into a ground game where pounding the rock, using up the clock and keeping possession is the best option for both teams; that’s the reason that the under is at 43.5. The statistics would back up going with the Under as seven of Detroit’s last eight games have gone under the total and the Under is 7-2 in the Bear’s last nine games.

Given the way the two teams season have been going the Bears look to have a slight edge and I can see then gaining a narrow win but neither side has established any consistency this year and it may be better to delve into the player markets concerning Swift and Montgomery for some safer options.

BACK David Montgomery +77.5 rushing yards 3pts at 5/6 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK D’Andre Swift +64.5 rushing yards 3pts at 5/6 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)

PROFIT/LOSS (NOVEMBER 2021): LOSS -8.60 points
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