Chicago Bears (5-9) at Detroit Lions (5-9)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: FOX, Dan Miller, JC Pearson; DirecTV, 7
SERIES: 150th meeting. The Chicago Bears lead the series 83-61-5, but the Lions have won the last two overall and the last two at Ford Field.
2004 RANKINGS: Bears: offense 32nd (25th rush, 32nd pass); defense 18th (25th rush, 14th pass). Lions: offense 27th (21st rush, 27th pass); defense 23rd (18th rush, 22nd pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bears have scored a combined eight points the past two games, but coach Lovie Smith is sticking with QB Chad Hutchinson. Smith said a big problem is Hutchinson isn't getting enough protection to have time to look downfield. He would get a big boost if RB Thomas Jones has a big game, but the Lions are very difficult to run against inside. Meanwhile, Lions RB Kevin Jones has had a strong second half to his rookie season. It wasn't translating into points until QB Joey Harrington finally decided to be more aggressive attacking downfield and threw for 361 yards last Sunday. The Lions need to continue that offensive balance against a strong Bears defense. Chicago will be without MLB Brian Urlacher again, but Harrington will have trouble beating the Bears' solid secondary unless Jones is able to set up the play-action pass on early downs.
FAST FACTS: Bears: K Paul Edinger has hit just 56.1 percent of his past 41 field-goal
attempts. The league average this season is 81.8. ... Defense is allowing just 30.3
percent of third downs to be converted, second-best in the NFL. Lions: WR Roy Williams has
set team rookie records with seven touchdown receptions and 722 receiving yards. ... Kevin
Jones needs to average 31 rushing yards the final two games to reach 1,000 for the season.
PREDICTION: Lions 17-10
--OT Marc Colombo will see some playing time this week at left tackle, either in place of Qasim Mitchell or more likely in some kind of rotation with him.
--OT John Tait took some snaps at right tackle during Thursday's practice, wearing a brace on his right knee, but he remained questionable for Sunday's game. He has missed the past three games after starting 61 in a row.
--OT Qasim Mitchell took practice snaps at left tackle and right tackle during Thursday's practice. He has started every game at left tackle but could start on the right side Sunday if John Tait isn't ready to return from a sprained knee and it Marc Colombo is deemed ready to start on the left side.
--DE Adewale Ogunleye (lower leg) didn't practice for the second straight day. He remains questionable but could be leaning more toward doubtful since coach Lovie Smith said he aggravated the long-lingering injury last week.
--DE Michael Haynes will start Sunday if Adewale Ogunleye cannot.
--CB Jerry Azumah missed Thursday's practice and was added to the injury report with lower-back pain. With S Bobby Gray also missing Thursday practice and added to the injury list with a quad ailment, and FS Todd Johnson probable with an ankle injury, the Bears could be short-handed in nickel situations.
--QB Joey Harrington is hoping to put together back-to-back strong performances before the Lions go into the off-season -- again with a losing record and without a playoff appearance. Harrington completed 25 of 44 passes for a career-high 361 yards and two touchdowns Sunday against Minnesota, his best game after a mid- and late-season slump. The Lions are likely to decide in the off-season whether they need to sign a free agent to push Harrington and possibly compete for the starting job.
--RB Kevin Jones, who earned alternate Pro Bowl, can put an exclamation point on an impressive second half of his rookie season when the Lions meet the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Ford Field. Jones, who is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, needs 62 yards in the remaining two games to reach the 1,000-yard mark. It is believed he is aiming for 1100 or 1200 yards, however.
--WR Roy Williams came out of his six-game scoring drought with two touchdowns in the Lions' game Sunday against Minnesota and will see what he can do about finishing his rookie season with a flourish. An early-season ankle injury slowed Williams and he has had more drops than the Lions would like but he still leads the team with 47 receptions for 722 yards and seven touchdowns.
--OG Matt Joyce, a backup offensive lineman through the Lions' first 13 games, will get his second consecutive start at LG in the game Sunday against Chicago. Joyce held up well in his first start last Sunday against Minnesota and DT Kevin Williams, and he has gotten virtually all of the practice time at LG this week.
--S Terrence Holt got his first prolonged playing time in the Lions defense in game 14 last Sunday with 33 plays against Minnesota. Holt, who is expected to compete for a starting job next year, got additional practice time this week and is expected to get significant playing time Sunday against Chicago.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Olin Kreutz doesn't think he's had a very good season, but he's still going to his fourth straight Pro Bowl.
Kreutz was the only Bear voted to the Feb. 13 game in his native Hawaii. Injured middle linebacker Brian Urlacher wasn't elected for the first time in his five-year NFL career, but he was a first alternate along with punter Brad Maynard. Weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs is a second alternate, and R.W. McQuarters is a third alternate as a punt returner.
"I don't know what it says," Kreutz said of his selection. "I didn't think I was going this year, that's my honest opinion. I don't think I played very well this year. I appreciate the respect that I guess guys around the league have for me.
"(But) we're 5-9; the offense isn't playing well. I'm not going to say that I'm having a great season."
His teammates and coaches can't vote for him, but the seven-year veteran has their respect, too, despite a season in which the Bears' offense has been the worst in the NFL. For the past two months, the offensive line has generally been unable to consistently pass protect or open holes for the running game.
"Olin is a team player, and it's hard for competitors like Olin to say they had a great year when we're 5-9," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "I would expect him to make a (self-deprecating) comment like that. (But) the guys who played against him, other coaches, fans; they voted, and they see it a little bit differently.
"I think he's the best center in football this year; he'll be the same next year. That's Olin. As a player, you should be hard on yourself, and he's wanting to be perfect, and that's how you should look at it."
The Bears have started six different offensive line combinations this season, never the same one more than four games in a row. Kreutz and first-year starter left tackle Qasim Mitchell are the only offensive linemen who have started all 14 games this season.
The Lions started their season with a 20-16 victory over the Chicago Bears and, if they hope to show any improvement over last year's 5-11 record, they'll have to beat the Bears again Sunday in their final home game of the season.
The season-opening victory at Soldier Field on Sept. 12 broke the Lions' NFL-record 24-game road losing streak and ignited hopes they would finally post a winning record and join Green Bay and Minnesota in the NFC North title chase.
They got as far a 4-2 - including road wins against the New York Giants and Atlanta - before the wheels came off in a 1-7 streak that not only took them out of the division race but left them in danger of finishing with a fourth consecutive season of 10 losses or more.
A big part of the problem is that the Lions haven't been able to utilize their home-field advantage. They are 2-5 at Ford Field going into the game Sunday against the Bears.
A loss to the Bears - with a road game against Tennessee for the season finale - they would stand in jeopardy of finishing the season with a second consecutive 5-11 record. Coming in the wake of 2-14 in 2001 and 3-13 in 2002, it would be a major disappointment for the team Lions president Matt Millen is hoping to build.
"We're all bound and determined to get this thing done," coach Steve Mariucci said. "Turn it into a winner, a consistent winner.
"That's why these free agents come here. They want to accept the challenge like I did, accept the challenge of building this thing into a winning team, year in and year out. That's what we want to accomplish."