The Texans’ 41-25 Thanksgiving day defeat of the Lions put an end to the inglorious reign of Matt “As It Turns Out I’m Not Bill Belichick” Patrica as head coach of the team. With a 13-29-1 record, Patricia’s tenure can best be summed up as “you win some, you lose some … more.”
For now, the Lions braintrust has turned to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to be the interim head coach. Will he be back next year? Well, the next few weeks will certainly be instructive on that count, starting with a game in Chicago against the Bears.
And while it may seem like the 4-7 Lions are a significant notch below the 5-6 Bears, the sportsbooks are more than willing to give Bevell a shot to put his imprint on this team, so much so that the Bears – at home – are only favored by three points across the board. Translation? If this game was played on neutral turf, it would be a pick ‘em.
On the moneyline front, the best bang for your Bevell can be found on FanDuel, with the Lions +145 to win outright. On the over/under, the number is sitting at 44.5, down from a 45.5 opening. Clearly, the sharp money is coming in on this game being a bit of a grind.
So will it? Well … maybe not.
Swift, Swift, and more Swift
On the Detroit side of the ball, Kenny Golladay was not practicing Wednesday, and so there is serious doubt he’ll be suiting up for the Lions. This would mark his fifth missed game since injuring his hip against the Colts in Week 8. At this point – and with the Lions effectively out of the playoff hunt, short a miraculous five-game winning streak and plenty of help to finish the season (FanDuel has the Lions at -7000 to miss the playoffs) – it’s fair to wonder if Golladay will see the field again this year. Which also means it’s fair to wonder if he’s played his last game as a Lion, as he will enter free agency after this season.
Golladay aside, there is the expectation that D’Andre Swift will be back after a two-game concussion absence, and if Bevell has an ounce of sense to him, he will draw up plays left, right, and center for the explosive rookie. Remember: In the last game before the concussion, Swift was finally featured and went off for 149 total yards, five receptions, and a touchdown.
And while the Bears defense is solid, running backs with similar skill sets to Swift have succeeded against Chicago this year. For instance: Alvin Kamara went for 163 total yards with nine catches; just last week, Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams went for the same number of yards.
In short: Swift can beat this defense, and anything less than 20 touches for Swift spells doom.
As for the passing game? Not having Golladay is a killer for this team, but a healthy Swift will give Matthew Stafford room to operate.
(Update: Swift ended up not practicing Thursday, and his status is in doubt as of Friday morning. If he sits again … ugh. The Bears at -3 look even more attractive.)
The big problem, however, may be on the defensive side. The Lions are 29th in yards allowed per game, and the Bears offense – while not exactly what might be described as “good” – is dangerous. Especially to the Lions. To wit: Mitch Trubisky, who’s back in the saddle for the Bears at QB, has eviscerated the Lions throughout his bumpy career.
To wit: During the first game of the 2020 season in Detroit, Trubisky tossed three touchdowns to go along with 242 yards through the air and another 26 on the ground. Last year over the two games? Six touchdown passes, 511 passing yards. How about 2018? How about 355 yards and another three touchdowns?
Does Trubisky have the Lions’ number? Well, small sample size and all, but uh … it kinda looks like he does. Plus having Allen Robinson and an all-of-a-sudden good-looking David Montgomery doesn’t hurt.
Overall? At first blush, it feels like the three points is a shade too low. The Bears feel like they should be 4.5, maybe 5-point favorites. Translation? Not sure about the spread bet. One interesting wager will be Swift’s player props. If there’s a rushing-plus-receiving combo and it’s anything short of 80, that looks like a quality wager.
Bevell has five shots to prove himself as an NFL head coach. You have to assume he’s going to come out blazing. This game might be more entertaining than the field perceives.