On Sunday when the Lions and Bears face off, it will be a battle between divisional rivals trying to right the ship of disappointing seasons.
Chicago (3-5) has lost four straight following a strong 3-1 start to the season. Meanwhile, Detroit (3-4-1) has lost four of its last five since suffering an emotional loss to Kansas City in Week 4.
Both teams, technically, still have a shot at the postseason despite that reality being nearly improbable with Green Bay (7-2) leading the NFC North.
Both teams are desperate for a divisional victory, and it’ll likely come down to player matchups.
Here are three to look out for when the Lions square off with the Bears Sunday:
Khalil Mack vs. Lions’ tackles
Chicago’s superstar edge defender Khalil Mack will be all over the field Sunday, per usual.
Despite lower numbers than his monstrous 2018 campaign, Pro Football Focus still grades him as the second-best edge defender in the NFL.
Coming off the edge, tight ends may be responsible for blocking him at times.
However, running backs like J.D. McKissic will also be tasked with picking up his unique blitzes should Mack get past the initial line of blockers or go unblocked altogether.
The players, though, that will be most frequently tasked with containing Mack will be Detroit’s offensive tackles Rick Wagner and Taylor Decker.
Wagner, a veteran that Pro Football Focus once regarded as one of the NFL’s best, has had a decent season on paper.
He’s allowed two sacks, and hasn’t committed a penalty through eight weeks.
However, he’s graded out at a 56.4 mark by PFF, ranking him as the 52nd-best tackle in the league.
Decker, meanwhile, has graded out at a 66.9 grade (32nd), and has revived his season -- and future possibly -- after an abysmal Week 1 performance against the Arizona Cardinals.
How Wagner and Decker handle the mix of Chicago’s pressures highlighted by Mack will be a pivotal factor in the outcome of the game.
Darius Slay vs. Allen Robinson
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Mitchell Trubisky. Trey Burton. Tarik Cohen. Taylor Gabriel.
What do all of these names have in common?
They each had ascending and promising 2018 seasons, yet have been huge disappointments in 2019 thus far.
Conversely, former All-Pro receiver Allen Robinson has bounced back, and seems to be the only Bears player on offense with much of a pulse.
Robinson has 47 receptions -- good for 15th in the league -- to go along with three touchdown catches and 532 yards.
To combat Robinson’s production, Darius Slay, who’s back from injury, won’t have to be on his "A" game.
Trubisky’s PFF grade of 48.5 will be the worst Detroit has faced this season.
So as good as Robinson’s been this season -- 20th-best PFF grade among wide receivers -- he’s only going to be as good as Trubisky allows him to be.
This stands out as an opportunity for “Big Play Slay” to showcase that he's worthy of his nickname.
Chicago’s offensive line vs. Detroit’s defensive line
The Lions’ defensive line hasn’t lived up to expectations so far this season.
However, Damon “Snacks” Harrison is coming off his best game in 2019, Da’Shawn Hand is finally fully healthy, Trey Flowers remains a force and Chicago’s offensive line is abysmal.
No offensive lineman for the Bears grades higher than 20th overall at their respective position.
Three grade out below 60.0, according to PFF. Three more rank below 45th overall at their position.
Conversely, Matt Patricia’s defensive line is gaining momentum, as Flowers (77.8) along with three other linemen are graded above 65.0.
All in all, this is the perfect time for Detroit’s formerly vaunted defensive line to feast in a pivotal divisional matchup.