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Week 16 Preview: Lions at Bears

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Detroit Lions (10-4) at Chicago Bears (5-9)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Soldier Field, Chicago – TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews

*Keys to the game: Before dismissing a bounce from the Bears is possible with a replacement-level quarterback, consider journeyman Josh McCown thrived in coach Marc Trestman’s system with a 109 passer rating and 13 touchdowns to just one interception last season. RB Matt Forte has averaged nearly 110 yards from scrimmage in his career against the Lions and will need that type of production for Jimmy Clausen to remain upright.

Even with their snarling defense in tow, the Lions are not taking a win for granted at Chicago, where they last won back-to-back games in 1973 (six in a row). Of course, with Clausen in and the Bears allowing at least 31 points each of the past three games, the Lions won’t be facing one of the many great Chicago teams that beat them over the past four decades.

Blitzing the center of the line can be a trick that will force Lions QB Matt Stafford into a few silly turnovers or to run into sacks off the edge. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker might need to show more creativity to slow down Stafford, who ripped through the one-on-one coverage against WR Calvin Johnson in the Thanksgiving game.

Joique Bell is getting starter’s reps at running back, and the Bears’ ever-shuffling corps of linebackers is a trouble spot Detroit can exploit.

*Matchup to watch – RG Kyle Long vs. DT Ndamukong Suh: Long has done a respectable job with Suh in three career meetings, but Suh still caused havoc and made it possible for teammates to get in Jay Cutler’s face. Long has to use Suh’s quickness against him with leverage. It’s a difficult matchup for Long, who doesn’t have the mauler’s body type and can be beaten by Suh’s tremendous lower body strength in a bull rush.

*Player spotlight – Lions WR Calvin Johnson: Most of his damage was done against rookie CB Kyle Fuller. Tim Jennings, who is only 5-9, might be in line this time after Johnson caught 11 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns in the last meeting.

*Fast facts: The Lions have lost 16 straight outdoor games when temperature at kickoff was 40 degrees or colder. Their last win was in 2000. … The Bears have been outscored 173-68 in the second quarter this season.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

The expanding morass in the Chicago will not claim the Lions, who should dominate on both sides of the ball, punch their playoff ticket and set up a winner-take-all Week 17 clash with the Green Bay Packers for the NFC North title.

*Our pick: Lions 38-13


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