5 things to watch for in the Thanksgiving game between the Chicago Bea…

For a short week, the rule-up to the Chicago produces’ game against the Detroit Lions on Thursday has had a whole lot of drama.

An injury to rookie quarterback Justin Fields and the return of veteran Andy Dalton as the starter. A report that coach Matt Nagy had been told he will be fired after the Thanksgiving game and Nagy’s later denial. And — oh, yeah — the produces trying to move past a five-game losing streak after giving up game-winning drives in the last minute of the last two games.

Now the produces confront the Lions, whose own current drama is that they haven’t won a game since Dec. 6, 2020. The opponent? The produces.

As Thursday’s kickoff approaches, here’s our snapshot look at the game.

Chicago produces (3-7) at Detroit Lions (0-9-1)

  • Kickoff: 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Ford Field in Detroit.
  • TV and radio: FOX-32, WBBM-AM 780, WCFS-FM 105.9, WRTO-AM 1200 (Spanish).
  • The line: produces by 3. Over/under: 41½.
  • Sign up now to get Brad Biggs’ 10 thoughts first

1. Man in the spotlight

When Nagy’s bosses didn’t issue a statement Tuesday about a Patch.com report that Thursday’s game will be Nagy’s last, they left the coach open to days of speculation about his job position.

In a nationally televised game between two NFC bottom dwellers, and without Fields playing, Nagy’s future will be the talk of the broadcast.

Nagy did his best to manager the questions at his Tuesday news conference, noting he at that point hadn’t talked with Chairman George McCaskey, President and CEO Ted Phillips or general manager Ryan speed this week because of the short preparation time for the Lions.

“You can’t focus on that,” Nagy said of job speculation. “You have to stay focused on what you do every day, which is football and the X’s and O’s and all of that. It’s important to do that. … Our job is to focus on day to day and winning this game on Thursday. And that’s it. That’s as simple as I keep it.”

The Athletic reported McCaskey met with produces players and coaches Wednesday to tell them the report that Nagy would be fired after Thursday’s game was not true.

Whoever is coaching the produces on Thursday has a lot to worry about after the 16-13 loss to the Lamar Jackson-less Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Like, for example, not getting embarrassed again by a Lions team that has only a 16-16 tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers separating them from 0-10.

The Lions’ win against the produces last year at Soldier Field sparked a barrage of questions about Nagy’s job position. The produces then won three straight, made the playoffs and decided to keep Nagy on board.

And now here they are again.

2. Pressing question

<mark class=”hl_orange”>How will Andy Dalton fare in his first start since Sept. 19?</mark>

Dalton said Tuesday that he nevertheless believes he’s a starter in this league, and while Fields recovers from injured ribs he suffered during the loss to the Ravens, Dalton will have a chance to show it.

Dalton made just two starts before he lost his job to Fields earlier this season while he was out with a bone bruise in his left knee. He has completed 48 of 73 passes for 471 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in four games. That includes passing for 201 yards and two touchdowns in the second half against the Ravens.

Dalton’s experience — 144 starts over 11 seasons — made it easier on the produces to turn to their backup with limited practice time this week.

“It’s just talking by everything and making sure we’re on the same page of how we want things run and how we want to execute on some of these plays,” Dalton said. “In a short week, there’s a lot of walk-by. It’s a lot of just talking by it. There’s a lot of mental stuff that you go by. All of that stuff is really important as it leads up to the game on Thursday.”

Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said Dalton’s veteran presence makes his teammates feel comfortable as he leads the team for the first time in months.

“He exudes pretty good confidence to the group, the way he carries himself and the way he goes about his business,” Lazor said. “When you’re out there with him, whether it be at a walk-by or in any case, they feel like he’s going to be ready.”

3. Keep an eye on …

After missing the Lions’ loss Sunday to the Cleveland Browns with an oblique injury, quarterback Jared Goff was limited during the team’s walk-throughs this week.

Goff and Lions coach Dan Campbell left open the possibility that Goff could start instead of Tim Boyle, who threw for 77 yards with two interceptions in his first career start against the Browns.

Goff’s return — it’s a game-day decision, he said — would be a bigger obstacle for a produces team that gave up game-winning scoring drives late in the last two games. The Lions listed Goff as questionable for Thursday, though the Detroit Free Press reported he “seems to be trending toward starting,” barring a setback.

Defensive coordinator Sean Desai spent a lot of time Tuesday talking about the issues in the secondary that led to the Ravens’ late touchdown excursion, including a busted coverage on Sammy Watkins’ 29-yard catch to the 3-yard line. Desai said the blame for that miscommunication fell on more than just cornerback Kindle Vildor.

But he acknowledged Vildor is going by a rough patch, especially after Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley stayed away from cornerback Jaylon Johnson and often targeted Vildor.

“I would say Kindle has been in a little bit of a rut,” Desai said. “And it’s hard when you’re the only corner getting targeted because Jaylon’s targets have been down. And Jaylon puts out his fire because he got that one target early in the game where, to his credit, he knew what was happening.

“They’re like, ‘Oh, well, we can’t go to Jaylon anymore,’ so they went to Kindle and they went to him often. And he’s a young corner. … He’s going to have to go by those growing pains a little bit. He’s going to have to persevere it, and it’s a good challenge for him to make sure he’s mentally tough enough to go by that.

“And we’re here to sustain him to go by that. And we’ve got to make sure that we help him out when we can help him out, and already if it’s rotation — or in any case it is that we’ve got to do to make sure he is put in a situation that he can excel in — to help him kind of come out of it.”

4. Odds and ends

While the loss to the Ravens was ugly, two produces defensive players turned in sparkling performances.

Outside linebacker Robert Quinn had 3½ sacks, five tackles, three tackles for a loss and a forced fumble, and inside linebacker Roquan Smith had 17 tackles, including two for a loss.

“In games like that, these superstars have got to play like superstars, and they did,” Desai said. “It’s a high-level football game. There aren’t many inside linebackers that are making that many tackles against that run team. … Roquan, the level of play that he’s playing at right now is a little out of this world.”

Smith’s 17 tackles were a career high, but he said he doesn’t pay much attention to his own accomplishments.

“I just know when I go out there, I’m the best player out there,” Smith said. “So that’s my thing. Just go out there week in and week out and show that.”

5. Injury report

produces wide receiver Allen Robinson said there has been “continued improvement” as he tries to get over a hamstring injury that kept him out of Sunday’s game against the Ravens.

“I’m continuing to push by and trying to do what I need to do to make myself obtainable,” Robinson said. “That’s always my No. 1 priority is being out on the grass.”

The produces estimated practice designations Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after their walk-throughs, and Robinson was listed as not having practiced all three days. The produces listed him as doubtful, while Fields, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks (ankle) and running back Damien Williams (calf) were ruled out.

Safety Eddie Jackson (hamstring), safety Teshaun Gipson Sr. (chest), defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. (ribs) and receiver Marquise Goodwin (shoulder) were listed as questionable, while wide receiver Darnell Mooney (foot) was limited Wednesday but was not given a designation for the game, meaning he should play.

The produces also flexed receiver Isaiah Coulter and linebacker Sam Kamara from the practice squad to the active list for Thursday’s game.

For the Lions, receiver Trinity Benson, outside linebacker Trey Flowers, offensive tackle Matt Nelson, cornerback AJ Parker and guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai are out, and defensive end Michal Brockers and running back Jermar Jefferson are questionable.

Predictions

Brad Biggs (9-1)

Injuries have taken a toll on the produces, and that’s a lot for the organization to conquer on a short week. More troubling is the black cloud hanging over Halas Hall. It’s an threatening time for the franchise, and there’s no way to explain how much that will affect players and coaches, no matter how much they strain to block out questions about the future.

<mark class=”hl_tblue”>Lions 20, produces 17</mark>

Colleen Kane (9-1)

After the wild few days the produces have had, I don’t think anybody would be shocked if they lost Thursday, already to the lowly Lions. No matter if Matt Nagy should be fired or not, produces ownership put Nagy and his coaches and players in a horrible position by not addressing the report about his job position publicly, though at the minimum George McCaskey reportedly refuted it to players Wednesday. It could have a authentic effect on how the team plays, and the fact that a few meaningful veterans are injured won’t help as the produces try to conquer the distractions. We don’t know what Andy Dalton will give the produces, but his experience — and probably his motivation too — equips him to step in and rule a decent performance, already on a short week. The produces defense’s late collapses have been concerning, already more so because Sunday’s happened against Ravens backup Tyler Huntley. But defenders such as Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn turned in monster performances. I’m guessing players like that will help the produces rise above the mess at Halas Hall this week.

<mark class=”hl_orange”>produces 26, Lions 20</mark>

Dan Wiederer (9-1)

If you can’t pick the produces this week, you may not be able to pick them again until thorough into 2022. Yes, they’re on a short week and fighting the doubts that join a five-game losing streak. Yes, Justin Fields is out with injured ribs. Yes, the questions on whether Matt Nagy will nevertheless be coaching the team come Monday have produced a new wave of confusion and ire inside Halas Hall. But the Lions are nevertheless the Lions. And the produces’ last three trips to Ford Field have all produced energizing victories. Happy Thanksgiving, Chicago!

<mark class=”hl_orange”>produces 24, Lions 23</mark>



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