The Detroit Lions last division title, 30 years ago, was so long ago the NFC North was the Central.
In order to end the drought, the Lions will need to hold down their current division opponents for the remainder of the regular season.
Detroit (7-2) plays five of its final eight games against its NFC North rivals, beginning with a home matchup against the last-place Bears on Sunday. The Lions are seeking their first division title since 1993.
“If you aspire to win a division, you have to win your division games,” Detroit coach Dan Campbell said. “That’s the bottom line here. We’ve got one (division game) under our belt and this is No. 2. It’s as simple as that.”
The Lions hold a 1 1/2-game advantage over Minnesota, which has won five straight games. They’ll play the Vikings twice in the last three games of the season.
Detroit’s task against Chicago (3-7) seemingly is a little more difficult with the expected return of Bears quarterback Justin Fields. He has recovered from a right thumb injury and is practicing again.
“He’s very dangerous,” Campbell said.
Chicago went 2-2 with backup Tyson Bagent filling in for Fields. In the teams’ two meetings last season, Fields rushed for a combined 279 yards but the Lions won both games.
Campbell saw a more polished passer on tape before Fields was injured against Minnesota on Oct. 15. Fields threw for 617 yards and eight touchdowns in the Bears’ previous two games against Washington and Denver. DJ Moore had four of his five touchdown receptions in those games.
“He’s stretching the ball down the field,” Campbell said. “They’re asking him to do some things in that pass game that they weren’t necessarily doing before. But they’ve got Moore now. He’s one of these premier guys.”
The Bears had a few extra days to rest up and get ready to face the division leaders. They scratched out a 16-13 win over the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 9.
D’Onta Foreman rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. He could be joined this week by Khalil Herbert, who has been sidelined since Oct. 5 due to an ankle injury.
The Lions won a thriller on Sunday, 41-38, over the Los Angeles Chargers. Riley Patterson kicked a 41-yard field goal as time expired.
Detroit’s offensive playmakers piled up big numbers. Jared Goff threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns. Amor-Ra St. Brown caught eight of those passes for 156 yards and a score. The 1-2 backfield punch of David Montgomery and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs combined for 193 yards and three touchdowns.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus and his staff must figure out ways to combat the Lions’ versatility.
“Any time you play a top 10 offense, that’s the test,” he said. “Certainly, this offense is a good offense and it’s got a lot of skill. They distribute the ball around to different players and make you defend horizontally and vertically. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
Eberflus says the Lions’ style of play is a reflection of their coach.
“He’s a high-energy guy. He’s got a lot of passion and you can see that, his fingerprint on his team,” Eberflus said. “They fight through 60 minutes and they battle all the way.”
Herbert and Foreman were limited in practice on Wednesday and fullback Khari Blasingame (concussion) and offensive lineman Nate Davis (ankle) practiced in full. Lions guard Jonah Jackson (wrist, ankle) didn’t practice on Wednesday.
–Field Level Media