When the Bears visit the Lions on Thanksgiving Day at Ford Field in Detroit, keep an eye on these three matchups:
Bears CB Kyle Fuller vs. Lions WR Marvin Jones
In the last matchup between these two teams, Jones' fellow receiver Kenny Golladay scored the Lions' lone touchdown on a 47-yard throw. However, Jones was more productive than Golladay on the day, catching five passes for 77 yards, including three catches for 43 yards on the final drive as the Lions attempted to tie the game.
With eight touchdowns on the seasons, the veteran Jones is still a big-play threat. He has been held to under 50 yards each of the past two games but did find the end zone twice against the Cowboys.
Fuller recorded six tackles and one pass defended against the Lions. The All-Pro cornerback leads the team with three interceptions. Like Mack, Fuller should benefit from the Lions' youth at the quarterback position, as Driskel threw three interceptions last week, and Blough has never played in an NFL game.
The Bears still boast one of the best run defenses in the league, and the Lions' identity, with or without injured starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, has been pass-heavy. There should be multiple opportunities for Fuller to get his hands on the ball.
Bears OLB Khalil Mack vs. Lions LT Taylor Decker
To be fair to Mack, the actual matchup might be against Decker, a tight end and a quick throw or rollout to the opposite side. Such tactics have been used consistently by opposing teams to keep Mack from the game-changing plays that have defined his career.
Against the Lions in early November, the Bears were only able to get two sacks on surprise starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, and neither came from the All-Pro linebacker. However, Mack can change the game if the other team decides to dedicate a single tackle to blocking him.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said Tuesday that the Bears are 7-1 in games when Mack gets a strip-sack, as he did last Sunday against the Giants.
Decker had a reasonably good day last time he faced the Bears, as neither sack came off the edge. However, the Lions are coming off a loss to the Washington Redskins in which Driskel was sacked six times.
Driskel is questionable for Thursday, so there's a possibility that Decker will be blocking for undrafted rookie David Blough. In either case, Mack will be looking to force a young quarterback into making costly mistakes.
Bears C Cody Whitehair vs. Lions LB Jarrad Davis
Apart from three scoring drives, the Lions' defense held firm against the Bears two weeks ago: Five different players recorded sacks. The Bears gained only 81 yards on the ground, and the Lions forced seven three-and-outs.
Davis was the Lions' leading tackler on the day. On the light side for a middle linebacker, the former first-round pick can be a threat in the pass rush--he recorded six sacks last season--or as run stopper.
With the Lions running a four-man front, Whitehair may be responsible for picking up Davis when he blitzes and sealing him off downfield on running plays. The Bears have found some rhythm passing the ball in the last three games, coinciding with Whitehair's return to his old position. However, the team will also look to get more production out of David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen, after the team has been held under 100 yards on the ground for the past four weeks.
The Lions' defense may be shorthanded on Thursday, with four starters either limited or held out of practice on Monday. Regardless, the next step for the Bears offense is to prove that they can get production on the ground and through the air at the same time.