Bears vs. Lions Prediction: Can the Bears keep it close again?
David Reginek - USA Today Sports

Bears vs. Lions Prediction: Can the Bears keep it close again?

by - Senior Writer -

Fresh off their latest bye week in recent memory, the Bears will be back on the field this weekend for the final stretch run of the season. Sitting at 4-8 and with five games left, it is now or never for the Bears, as they should be in playoff mode from here on out.

Win out, and you get to nine wins and have a realistic shot at earning a Wild Card spot. Lose one game, and you may or may not get in, but either way, any win from here is an improvement from last season, which is the ultimate goal in a rebuild. That winning mindset isn't something this team is familiar with, and that all starts with their second meeting against the Detroit Lions.

The first-place Lions are sitting at 9-3 but haven't looked as good lately as they did earlier this season. Chicago knows that all too well, as they held a 26-14 lead against Detroit less than a month ago, only to allow 17 fourth-quarter points for a crushing 31-26 defeat. Those games eat at you for a while, and if the Bears end up missing the playoffs by one game, that could be the one we point to as the one that got away.

For this meeting, the game will be played at Soldier Field, and there could be some rain or snow in the area. Talk about perfect December football weather if you're a Bears fan, but not so much if you are a Lions fan. Chicago knows they missed an opportunity last time and are eager to extract the pain from that loss and use it as motivation. Here are some things to look for this week.

Finish, Finish, Finish

Finishing games has been an issue for the Bears the past two seasons, but that is the case for most young teams learning how to win. Granted, Chicago has gotten better at finishing games the past few times, but they are still a team that needs to know how to put teams away.

For whatever reason, Matt Eberflus and his staff tend to play it safe when they have the lead late and go with the play-not-to-lose mentality instead of playing to win. That can work when you have a team good enough to do that, but the Bears are not that team. They need to finish teams off when they have the lead to prove they can win games consistently and gain confidence in doing it.

That Lions loss last time out was a significant blow and it killed a ton of their confidence. You continued to see that on Monday night as they forced four Joshua Dobbs interceptions yet let the Vikings drive down the field to take a 10-9 lead late. Fortunately, Justin Fields was able to rescue the Bears in that one, and they managed to finish off the Vikings. Hopefully, that is a sign of things to come.

Time to play spoiler

It has been a long time since the Lions have been this good, let alone sitting on top of their division this late in the season. With five games left to play, the Lions need to win two games to guarantee a playoff spot and, all likelihood, a division championship to give them their first home playoff game since 1992. With the Bears this weekend, two games against the Vikings and another against the Cowboys, it won't come easy, and the Bears would like to make it harder on them by pulling the upset.

Not only that, but when you look at the remaining games for the Bears, they have a chance to play spolier not just once, but several times as that should be their mindset. With their win over the Vikings last week, the Bears may have ended the Vikings playoff hopes depending on how things play out. A win against the Lions and Detroit will have their work cut out for them the rest of the way, as wins will be challenging to come by.

They also have Green Bay on their schedule the final week of the season, and depending on how the Rams, Vikings, and Seahawks do up to that point, Chicago could eliminate the Packers from playoff contention with a win there. Those are just a few things the Bears are playing for right now, as this is the NFL, and the stakes are always high.

The Evaluation process

With this being the final stretch run for the regular season, there isn't much many teams can do or see that they haven't already seen this season. That can't be said about the Bears, as the next five weeks are crucial to the overall future of this franchise. Knowing what he has to work with in free agency and the potential to land a pair of franchise-altering players in the first round, look for GM Ryan Poles to treat these final five weeks as an evaluation process as he looks to piece together who stays and who goes.

This process will hinge on the players, especially Fields, and the coaching staff as a unit. The more wins they get down the stretch, the more likely some of these guys will keep their jobs going forward. Should they lose most or even all of their remaining games, look for some changes, and a new head coach and QB could be one.

Prediction: Lions 31-28 over Bears

Unlike last time, when most predicted the Bears would get blown out only to lose by five, this should be a close game, especially when you look at how things ended last time. There is no question that the Lions have a better team and a better coaching staff, but this is a rivalry game, and rivalry games are always the toughest games to play throughout the season.

Chicago knows they can play with Detroit as they did earlier this season and last. They need to cut down on the mistakes during the crucial parts of the game, and the rest should take care of itself. Expect this one to come down to the wire again, but like last time, the Lions hold on again to secure their 10th victory of the season 31-28.

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