DETROIT — A playoff spot is on the line today for the Bears, who will earn a wildcard berth with a win over the Lions in Detroit coupled with a Vikings loss to the Packers later in the day.
If that scenario unfolds, the Bears (9-6) would open the playoffs as the sixth seed on the road against the third-seeded NFC West champion-most likely the 49ers-next weekend.
In eight career starts against Detroit, quarterback Jay Cutler has completed 140 of 217 passes for 1,565 yards with 11 touchdowns, only one interception and a 100.9 passer rating.
Running back Matt Forte has also excelled against the Lions, rushing for 774 yards and four touchdowns on 157 carries in nine games. Forte exited last Sunday's win over the Cardinals with an ankle injury. But he is expected to start today versus the struggling Lions (4-11), who have lost seven straight games, allowing at least 24 points in each of those defeats.
While the Bears rushed for 152 yards and allowed only one sack last Sunday against the Cardinals, Cutler started off shaky, completing just one of his first 11 passes.
He eventually heated up during a two-minute drill late in the first half, connecting on 5-of-5 passes for 76 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown to Brandon Marshall that gave the Bears a 21-6 lead.
While Marshall has established single-season Bears receiving records with 113 catches and 1,466 yards, the offense has struggled to develop consistency. After generating 19 touchdowns in the first eight games of the season, the unit has mustered only 11 TDs in the last seven contests.
The Bears defense hopes to pick up today where it left off in Arizona where it returned two of three takeaways for touchdowns, not did allow a TD, recorded four sacks and limited the Cardinals to 29 yards rushing.
After returning seven interceptions for touchdowns during a six-game winning streak earlier this season, the Bears defense hadn't scored a TD while losing five of six games before last Sunday. This year the Bears are 6-0 when producing a defensive touchdown and 3-6 when they don't.
The Bears enter Week 17 leading the NFL with 40 takeaways, their most since they recorded 44 in 2006 en route to a Super Bowl appearance. The Lions lead the NFL in passing yards, but quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown 16 interceptions, tied for the third most in the league.
The Lions offense is led by Pro Bowl receiver Calvin Johnson, who broke Jerry Rice's single-season record for receiving yards last weekend in a loss to the Falcons.
Johnson, who had compiled 1,892 yards, also became the only receiver with 100 yards in eight straight games and the first with 10 receptions in four games in a row in league history.
In a Week 7 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field, Johnson was held to a season-low three catches for 34 yards despite being targeted 11 times.