Detroit Lions

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer doesn't expect 2020 NFL games to have fans

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer doesn't expect 2020 NFL games to have fans

At this point – if you haven't already – it's probably wise to hold off on booking any Bears-focused road trips in 2020. 

As professional sports leagues scramble to figure out what they'll look like when games begin again, it's become increasingly clear that, at first, fans won't be a part of it.

In an interview with a local radio station in Detroit on Tuesday, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer spoke in no uncertain terms about what fans can expect from any fall sports:

"There is reason to feel some confidence here," Whitmer said in an interview on the Mojo in the Morning Show on WQKI-FM (95.5). "But we also have to measure (peoples') expectations and say life’s going to be different. We’re not going to be filling stadiums in the fall."

That'd mean Bears-Lions would open the NFL season in a quiet, empty dome. While it's good news that the governor feels at least some optimism in regards to a full season, it's unsurprising to hear that there's almost no chance that fans are in seats for it. Testing capacity in the United States is still lagging, and most states' re-opening protocols require a vaccine or useful treatment to be readily available before large public gatherings are allowed again. 

Bears 2020 Schedule: Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions to host season opener

Bears 2020 Schedule: Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions to host season opener

The Games
The Bears are scheduled to open the 2020 regular season at Ford Field, a change of pace after playing in Detroit on Thanksgiving the last two years. Detroit will then head to Chicago on December 6 for a Week 13 matchup. The Lions haven’t beaten the Bears since 2017, and therefore Matt Nagy has never lost to them as head coach of the Bears. The Bears also have more wins against Detroit (101) than any other opponent in franchise history.

Player to Watch
One familiar face the Bears did not see last season was Matthew Stafford. Detroit’s longtime QB was a late scratch in the first meeting last year after suffering broken bones in his back the week before. Stafford had started 136 consecutive games for the Lions, but missed eight last year after the back injury, including both contests against the Bears. With some potential outs in his contract looming and a team that might be approaching a full-on rebuild, it’s fair to wonder whether Stafford’s time in Detroit is approaching an end.

Additions & Subtractions
The Lions overhauled their secondary in a pair of moves, trading CB Darius Slay to the Eagles for draft picks, and then selecting CB Jeff Okudah from Ohio State with the third-overall pick in April’s draft. Detroit also lost standout OL Graham Glasgow in free agency, but helped replace him by spending a third-round pick on promising OL prospect Jonah Jackson. The Lions also added former Bears backup QB Chase Daniel.

Key Storyline
Head coach Matt Patricia enters the 2020 season on thin ice, as the Bill Belichick disciple has stumbled to a 9-22-1 record in his first two seasons at the helm, good for a .297 winning percentage. With owner Martha Firestone Ford retaining the coaching staff but publicly turning up the heat late last year, it might essentially be playoffs or bust for Patricia in Detroit.

RELATED: Dr. Fauci says there's a chance NFL can start on time with fans in the stands

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2020 NFL Season: Despite offseason upgrades, Bears are Week 1 underdog vs. Lions

2020 NFL Season: Despite offseason upgrades, Bears are Week 1 underdog vs. Lions

The Chicago Bears had a busy offseason. It was an eventful offseason. It was an offseason that unequivocally can be described as one that resulted in several roster upgrades.

Ryan Pace traded for Nick Foles. At worst, he'll be the kind of game-manager needed to complement a championship-caliber defense. Pace signed Robert Quinn, whose ability as a double-digit sack-artist is lightyears beyond anything Leonard Floyd managed to accomplish during his four unproductive seasons in Chicago. There was also the double-dip at tight end with the signing of Jimmy Graham and selection of Cole Kmet in the 2020 NFL draft. The combination of experience and youth should combine for a significant uptick in production at the position.

Three major problem areas that plagued the Bears in 2019 -- quarterback, pass-rush and tight end -- all addressed.

It should be a foregone conclusion, then, that the Bears will be favored over the 3-12-1 Lions in 2020's season opener, right? 

Wrong. Chicago is an early road underdog (+1.5) to kick off the season. 

To be fair, home teams are usually given a three-point benefit of the doubt. The fact the point spread is this close means the experts in Las Vegas think the Bears are likely to win the game. But it's still surprising to see such a tight spread considering the different places these rosters are in.

Detroit didn't land the third overall pick in the 2020 draft by accident. They were a terrible team in 2019 and they haven't done all that much to suggest 2020 will be markedly better. Hey, maybe adding former Bear Nick Williams in free agency will change the Lions' fortunes.

The only way the Bears lose in Week 1 is if Mitch Trubisky is the starting quarterback and he plays the way he did last year. The only way Trubisky will be behind center, however, is if he proves in training camp that he's an improved player. Otherwise, it'll be Foles. And he'll do enough to lead Chicago to a victory in Week 1 over the Lions by 10 points or more. Book it.