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What to watch for in Bears-Lions, Chargers-Chiefs

Saturday football is back.

The NFL has gifted fans with a pair of late-day, nationally televised tilts to kick off the weekend.

At least one of them looms as a doozy, with the surging Chargers visiting the up-and-down Chiefs in a game that could very well decide the AFC West. The appetizer to that main course comes earlier in the day when Chicago squares off against the Lions in Detroit.

Here's what we'll be watching for in both games airing exclusively on NFL Network:

  1. Talk about two vastly different approaches on offense. The ground-oriented Bears have managed just 20 pass plays of 20-plus yards all season, the fewest in the NFL. Matthew Stafford and the Lions, meanwhile, have unfurled a whopping 53 throws of 20 or more yards, the second most league-wide. The upside for Chicago is that rookie passer Mitchell Trubisky is coming off his best game all season, an outing that saw him complete 25 of 32 passes for 271 yards with a touchdown and no picks against the Bengals. Why not let him loose over the final three weeks of the year?
  1. The Lions are often pegged as a dull watch, but Detroit's offense is scoring more points than all but four teams. Stafford is enjoying the finest season of his career, especially when targeting Marvin Jones, the reliable wideout who faces stiff competition from Bears cover man Kyle Fuller, who is playing some of his best football down the stretch. This Bears' defense boasts multiple turnovers in six games this season and must control a Detroit attack that has posted 20-plus points in every game since Week 8.
  1. This is an important game for both coaching staffs. With dates remaining against the Bengals and Aaron Rodgers-led Packers, the Lions still house a remote shot at an NFC wild-card berth. If they flounder Saturday and get handled by the Packers, it's fair to wonder of Jim Caldwell will be shown the door. General manager Bob Quinn has worked cohesively with Caldwell, but he might want the chance to handpick his own coach. Quinn's past Patriots ties make you wonder if one of New England's star coordinators -- Josh McDaniels or Matt Patricia -- might be on the radar. As for Fox, it's tough to watch this team and make a strong case for his return. Like the Rams did this past offseason, the Bears must pour resources into finding the right coaching staff for Trubisky, while surrounding their young quarterback with a flock of weapons. Next season can't look like this one for the Bears.
  1. If you follow a different team while ignoring the Chargers, you don't know what you're missing. Look beyond the seven-win record and check out last week's utter hammering of Washington. The Bolts piled up a franchise-record 354 yards in the first half and never let up. It was no fluke, either, with Los Angeles fielding the No. 1 total offense, No. 1 scoring defense, football's top-rated passer in Philip Rivers and a raging star at receiver in Keenan Allen. This is the team nobody wants to play.
  1. The Chiefs sport an identical record, but the pathway to Saturday has been entirely different for these two teams. The Chargers are white hot after opening the year 0-4. The Chiefs have just two wins since starting 5-0 and looking like the team to beat in the AFC. Kansas City's passing defense is a massive liability, which makes this a rough matchup against one of the league's most diverse air attacks. The Chiefs, though, feel better aligned for a shootout after watching the offense awaken over their past two outings. Since Week 13, Kansas City is averaging 28.5 points per game with 441 yards per tilt. Andy Reid's decision to hand play-calling duties over to Matt Nagy has produced results, with a regained emphasis on downfield strikes and chunk gains for quarterback Alex Smith. This team has issues, but Smith isn't the reason they're losing games. The challenge on Saturday falls on Kansas City's less-than-pristine offensive line to keep their quarterback safe from the nightmarish pass-rushing duo of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa.
  1. One of those four defeats to open the year for Los Angeles came in a 24-10 loss to Kansas City in Week 3. The Bolts absolutely need this game for a shot to take the AFC West. With battles against the Jets and Raiders remaining, the Chargers have a fantastic chance to host a playoff game if they handle their business on Saturday. The Chiefs, meanwhile, have a chance to sweep their bitter rivals and save their strange season with games left against the Dolphins and Broncos. I'll save any chatter about the 6-7 Raiders until Oakland looks and feels like a team ready to waltz into January. We haven't seen that from the Silver and Black in months. One last note on the Chargers: They have a chance to become just the second team in NFL history to reach the postseason after starting 0-4. The first team to do so? The magical Bolts of 1992. The DNA for a magical run courses through the bloodstream.
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