NFL Preview - Detroit (10-4) at Chicago (5-9) (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Detroit Lions are still in the mix to be the No. 1 seed in the NFC heading into the postseason. Then again, there's also a slim chance they'll be out of the playoff picture altogether.
Detroit takes another step toward a playoff berth and its first-ever NFC North crown, as it goes after a fourth straight win in a road test against the hapless Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
The Lions can clinch their second playoff spot in four years before they even take the field on Sunday if Philadelphia loses to Washington on Saturday.
A win over the Bears would net the same result for the Lions, who could also clinch their first division crown in 21 years with a win coupled with a Green Bay loss to Tampa Bay.
"It's right there in front of us," defensive end Jason Jones said.
Everything broke right for the Lions in Week 15. First, the Buffalo Bills pulled off an upset of the Packers, then Matt Prater's late field goal helped the Lions pull out a 16-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings to move them into a tie atop the division with the Packers.
Detroit actually holds the tiebreaker over Green Bay at the moment given its win over the Packers earlier in the year. The Lions will visit Lambeau Field in Week 17, likely with a chance at securing their first division title since winning the NFC Central in 1993.
"We're not taking any game for granted, any play for granted," said Matt Stafford, who threw for a season-low 153 yards in the win over the Vikings. "It's not going to be pristine every time, but we're going to fight tooth and nail for wins and that showed up again today."
It's the first time the Lions reached 10 wins in the first 14 games of the season since the Lions started 10-4 in 1991.
Chicago, meanwhile, is no such playoff position after a lifeless, 31-15, shellacking at the hands of the New Orleans Saints on Monday.
And now the team is in complete disarray.
Shortly after the loss reports started to circulate that head coach Marc Trestman may be out of a job at the end of the season. Then, on Wednesday it leaked that the Bears would bench starting quarterback Jay Cutler in favor of Jimmy Claussen, who hasn't started a game since 2010.
"The bottom line is that this is a business based on winning and losing," Trestman said. "We can't sugarcoat it. We are disappointed that we're not playing well enough to win."
Cutler turned in another subpar performance against the Saints as he threw for just 194 yards on 17-of-31 passing with two touchdown passes and three interceptions for the Bears, who have dropped their last three games.
"Overall, I just feel that we need passion to come from certain places and I don't think the passion is always there all the time," Bears tight end Martellus Bennett said.
The Lions have won three straight over the Bears including a Thanksgiving Day triumph when Stafford threw for 390 yards and two scores. They haven't won consecutive contests in Chicago since a six-game run from 1968-73
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Detroit only managed 233 total yards versus the Vikings, but could be in store for a big bounce back this week considering the Bears have given up 35.3 points and 438.0 yards over their three-game slide.
Chicago's defense has given up a league-high 409 points, 19 more than the Tennessee Titans, who have allowed 390. In fact, they've given up 251 points in the first half alone.
To put that into perspective, three teams haven't surrendered that many in 14 full games, led by the Lions with 238 and followed by the Seahawks (242) and Cardinals (244).
Speaking of the Lions' second-ranked defense, they haven't allowed more than 17 points in three straight games and five of the last six.
That doesn't figure to change against a Bears team that will go with Claussen, who has completed three of his nine pass attempts this season.
Before this season, the former Notre Dame star hadn't appeared in an NFL game since playing 13 for the Carolina Panthers as a rookie after he was taken in the second round of the 2010 draft.
Cutler, meanwhile, has started all 14 games in his sixth season for the Bears, completing 66.1 percent of his passes for 3,640 yards, 28 touchdowns and an NFL-high 18 interceptions.
He has fumbled 12 times, losing six to lead the league in overall turnovers.
"Our whole football team isn't where it needs to be," Trestman said. "Nobody's happy about it. Jay's not happy about it. We all can do better."
Even without Cutler the Bears still have some offensive firepower with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, Bennett and running back Matt Forte.
"You look at a guy like Alshon Jeffery," safety Glover Quin said. "He can make tough catches. He can go deep on you. You look at Bennett. He can move the chains. You look at Forte. He's a Pro Bowl player. He's a big-time running back.
"You look at all those things. They can throw it. They can catch it. They can run it."
It's all there for the Lions taking. All they need to do is win and they are in the playoffs. With a regular season-ending game in Green Bay next week, the Lions know they'd be better off taking care of business this week.
As for the Bears, well, what can you say. They looked like a team that had packed it in last week. Now, they'll have a quarterback who hasn't started a game in four years. It's getting ugly in Chicago and it figures to be worse after Sunday.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Lions 35, Bears 6