It’s Week 14. Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell is running out of ways to surprise you, but I’m not. We’ve seen so many iterations of complete, team wins on the road to a 9-3 record —Jared Goff galore, David Montgomery’s one-man show, a dominant run defense, the Sam LaPorta spectacle, and more. We’ve seen the Lions win every way possible this season—every way except special teams.
Bold prediction of the week: Riley Patterson makes 3+ FGs in sloppy Windy City battle
The Lions are heading to Soldier Field at a less-than-opportune time of year. Detroit will play their first outdoor game since they took on the Ravens in Baltimore in late October. The forecast isn’t pretty, calling for cloudy and windy conditions in the low 30s, with a wind chill well below that.
On paper, that doesn’t swing things much for either team. We all know Justin Fields’ strength lies in his running abilities, while the Lions bring one of the best running back duos in the league. However, it may change how the play calling evolves throughout the game.
Last time these two teams played, just three weeks ago, the Chicago Bears did what they do best early: run the football. It worked, propelling Chicago to an early lead that left the Lions defense looking flustered. Fortunately for the Lions, Chicago didn’t stick to that script. As the game progressed, they asked more of Fields in the pocket and strayed from the designed runs. That allowed the Lions to mount a comeback.
The Bears have since had a bye week to recoup and figure out what went wrong. Surely, they’ve watched the film and realized they need to stick to the run as the game progresses. Even if they haven’t, Sunday’s conditions may incline the Bears to keep pounding the ball regardless.
The Lions are built to run the ball just as well as Chicago, if not better. The medium is different, however. Fields’ athleticism is especially opportune in the red zone, while the Lions find themselves on the opposite end of that spectrum, relying purely on their running backs. That puts these two teams in very different situations if the weather turns bad.
If the weather is not conducive to quarterbacks gripping the football well or if the wind picks up, the Lions may become fairly one-dimensional in the red zone. If the Lions stagnate inside the 20, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dan Campbell opt for field goals more than usual. Riley Patterson has only eclipsed three made field goals once this season, and has only had three attempts twice. Both happened in October, but we could see that be the case again Sunday.
With true Chicago winter weather forecasted for Sunday, the Bears may not even have the option to make the mistake they made three weeks ago, so every point will count. In my book, that means a busy day for Riley Patterson.