While the Chicago Bears have received waves of good news on the injury front this week, the same can’t be said for the Detroit Lions, whose recently shared/updated injury report features some prominent names.
Cornerback Darius Slay (knee) and guard T.J. Lang (neck) are OUT for Sunday’s game against the Bears. Not only is it a blow that two of the Lions’ top players are out of action, it’s important to note that each of those players are at key positions the Bears could possibly exploit schematically on Sunday.
Slay had a breakout 2017 season in which he led the league in interceptions (8) and passes defended (26) en route to a Pro Bowl invitation and first-team All-Pro nomination. He intercepted Mitch Trubisky twice in the Lions’ win late in the 2017 season, an effort that somehow led John Fox to say Trubisky played his best game. No, seriously. As for Lang, he has been a thorn in the Bears’ backside dating back to his days with the Packers, but the oft-injured lineman hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2014. But still … these are two significant losses for Detroit.
The Lions being without one of the NFL’s top coverage corners should allow Mitch Trubisky to air it out some against a defense that might not be as good as some numbers indicate. Because while Detroit has limited opposing passing offense to the second fewest yards, quarterbacks are averaging 8.5 yards per attempt (fourth highest in the league) and posting a 112.5 passer rating (third highest). Only three teams (Dallas, San Francisco, Tampa Bay) have fewer interceptions than Detroit (3), while just nine teams have allowed more touchdown passes (9). Look at it this way: Detroit has allowed quarterbacks to post a 7.2 TD% and 1.4 INT%. Or in other words, throw touchdowns at a higher percentage than Drew Brees and toss interceptions at a lower rate than Tom Brady.
On the other side of the ball, the loss of Lang further depletes an offensive line that just allowed the Minnesota Vikings to come up with 10 sacks of Matthew Stafford. Last year, the right side of the offensive line was supposed to be a strength with Lang and Rick Wagner signing big free agent deals. Fast forward to the mid-way point of 2018 and that duo isn’t as fearsome as it once was. I feel like we’re saying this every week, but perhaps this is the game Leonard Floyd comes away with his first sack of 2018.
The Bears have been more fortunate than their opponents as far as injuries are concerned, but if they don’t take advantage of it the way teams did when they were short-handed, then it’s pointless.