Week 1: Bears @ Lions - Preview

The day has finally arrived.


NFL football is here, despite so much evidence that may have pointed to the contrary over the last few months. I cannot tell you how excited I am for football to start. Firstly Houston @ KC has the potential to be an incredible season opener and I am going to have to try and resist the urge to watch live so I can get to work the next day on time and in a good state! Primetime games are not exactly scheduled at a good time for UK viewers and their sleep.


The Lions start at home against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, September 13th at 1 pm ET (6 pm BST). Antony discussed the Bears on the ROTL UK blog as part of his State of the North address on August 13th if you want to see how we felt about our opponents then.


The Betting


The Bears enter this matchup with Vegas having them favourite for 3rd in the division ahead of the Lions in 4th. On this specific matchup, there's a 3 point spread in favour of the Lions according to ESPN.com, and with conventional wisdom dictating a 3 point spread advantage when at home, this would indicate that the betting has the teams at an even keel. How much the effect of a lack of fans at home has factored into the spread is not clear.


Medical Report


Bears:-


RB David Mongomery - questionable with a groin injury. Montgomery's injury is supposed to be 2-4 weeks from Aug 27 which makes his estimated recovery dates Sept 10 - 24.


DB Marqui Christian - suspended for an undisclosed reason. He played mainly on special teams for the LA Rams over the last 4 years.


There are other minor injuries but none seem to be that serious or to important players.

Lions:-


RB D'Andre Swift - questionable with an undisclosed injury. Swift has had a very disrupted offseason with injury and even if he recovers to full fitness, his preparation and ability to start must surely be hampered.

DE Austin Bryant - active/PUP list. Austin has again struggled with injuries this offseason but is participating in practice, Detroit is being super-cautious with this one.

S Jayron Kearse - suspended for a violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. He was also charged with DWI and carrying a firearm without a permit in October 2019 when with the Vikings. The Lions have many options at safety so this should not be a massive concern.


Chicago Bears - Last season


The Bears finished 8-8 off the back of a 12-4 season in 2018. The defense still played at an excellent level despite losing key player Akiem Hicks for a large part of the season but the offense was fairly woeful, best summed up by Mitchell Trubisky. He threw for 3,138 yards, 17 TDs and 10 INTs. The offensive line gave up 45 sacks on the season for 12th most in the NFL which didn't help, but Trubisky's adjusted completion % and passer rating under pressure were 45th and 50th among QBs, and he was PFFs 38th rated QB.


Chicago Bears draft


Round 2, Pick 43, TE Cole Kmet

Round 2, Pick 50, CB Jaylon Johnson

Round 5, Pick 155, LB Trevis Gipson

Round 5, Pick 163, CB Kindle Vildor

Round 5, Pick 173, WR Darnell Mooney

Round 7, Pick 226, OT Arlington Hambright

Round 7, Pick 227, OT Lachavious Simmons


The Bears went into the draft without a first-round pick, the result still of the Khalil Mack trade and proceeded to pick Cole Kmet at TE at number 43, having just paid Jimmy Graham $16m for 2 years. He was the top-rated TE in the draft and is probably a matter of the best player available rather than picking a position of need.

The draft needs identified pre-draft for the Bears were, per www.sportingnews.com:


S, G, CB, TE, DL, WR


And with the draft, they appear to cover all those bases (assuming an OT can slide to G).


Chicago Bears roster


I'm going to highlight a couple of key areas on both sides of the ball and list the other predicted starters as per ESPN's current depth chart:


Offense

Quarterback: Trubisky vs Foles


This is the biggest question hanging over the Bears at the start of the 2020 season. Who starts under centre?


The incumbent, Mitchell Trubisky had his 5th-year option declined, which is hardly a vote of confidence, and he has underwhelmed consistently, only shining when the scheme was absolutely perfect, perhaps reflecting coach Matt Nagy's skill rather than Mitchell's. He has a 3-2 record against the Lions, with wins in the last 3 games.


The challenger, Nick Foles, signed a deal with the Jaguars last year for 4 years, $88m, $50.125m guaranteed. He was injured in game 1 and then couldn't beat out 6th round rookie and floppy-haired marvel Gardner Minshew on his return from injury. He was traded to the Bears for a compensatory 4th round pick. Much of the aforementioned contract was eaten by the Jaguars, meaning the contract with the Bears is a 3 year $24m deal (with an option for it to be a 2 year, $16m deal) which is far more palatable than we first thought. He is a former Super Bowl MVP with the Eagles and seems to come alive during the playoffs, but hasn't set the world alight in the regular season. He's worked with many of the coaching staff previously which should aid his transition.


During camp, neither has seemingly stood out above the other and Nagy has said he will announce the week 1 starter on Monday 7th September. I always thought it would be Foles because I don't think you should trade for a guy with that contract for him to sit on the bench, but I now think it will be Trubisky. Preference should stay with "your guy" until it is untenable, and I don't think he's "quite" there yet, although I don't think it'll take 8 games for that to change.


Predicted starter: Mitchell Trubisky.

EDIT: Trubisky was confirmed as starter on Sunday 6th September after this article had been written.