Go ahead and take a look at the NFC North standings. Seriously. Go look and then come back. We'll be here. OK, you back? Great! As you now know, the are in first place.The and were considered before the season to be among the inner-circle contenders in the NFC, while the Bears were viewed as a potential fringe playoff team due to the expected offensive improvement baked in by replacing John Fox with Matt Nagy.Things have worked out well for Chicago on both offense and defense, while both the Vikings and Packers have been up and down. Now, the Bears are right in the mix for the division title. They can go a long way toward solidifying their chances by handling Sunday's matchup with the last-place , who are 3-5 and recently traded one of their best offensive players.Will the Bears step up and ensure their footing, or can the Lions pull off the upset? We'll find out Sunday (1 p.m., Fox, ). Here's what to watch out for. When the Bears have the ballLet's talk about that aforementioned improvement in the Bears' offense. Chicago hasn Tim Hardaway Jersey 't exactly been the most consistent team on a game-to-game or even play-to-play basis, but the overall difference between this season and last is stark. Take a look at the following chart, which shows where the Bears ranked in a variety of offensive categories last season and where they rank this season. The better mark is highlighted in bold.Bears Offense20172018Yards/Game3016Yards/Play2416Points/Game296Points/Drive3012Score %309TO %2220Overall DVOA2810Pa s DVOA2914Run DVOA177Yeah. It's safe to say that Nagy and company have found some stuff that worked. Some of the improvement is due to the signings of , , and , plus the drafting of , but Nagy has found a far more effective way to use running back and has schemed into easier throws this season than he had a year ago. Chicago's top pa s-catchers averaged 2.71 yards of separation last year, Duncan Robinson Jersey per an analysis of .com's NextGen Stats, but this year their separation average is up to 3.01 yards. While a difference of 0.3 yards might not seem like a ton, consider the fact that it means there is an entire extra foot of space in which to fire the ball. That's a world of difference, and it's been clear in the ease with which Trubisky has completed pa ses this year (64.2 percent) compared to last (59.4 percent). More on the NFL That extra separation has borne itself out elsewhere in Trubisky's numbers. His throws are going for first downs (32.9 percent to 27.9 percent) and touchdowns (5.8 percent to 1.9 percent) far more often this year. He's also created a ton more big plays. Just 23 of Trubisky's 330 pa s attempts a year ago created gains of 20 yards or more. He's already got 26 such plays this year, on 70 fewer pa s attempts. That's a jump from 6.0 percent to 10.0 percent. The guys creating most of those big plays this year are Cohen and Gabriel, who have combined to account for 12 of 26 20-plus-yard catches on the year. The Lions rank 26th in DVOA on deep pa ses this season, indicating that Gabriel has a chance to break a big play on Sunday. (That's especially true because -- who has not practiced all week and is uncertain to play -- is likely to shadow Allen Robinson if he suits up, leaving Gabriel working against a weaker cover corner for most of the afternoon. ) The Lions' pa s defense has been poor in just about every area this season, with slot wideouts, tight ends, and running backs also finding succe s. With Slay likely Bam Adebayo Jersey covering Robinson, Trubisky and company would be wise to look at Gabriel, Miller, Cohen, and Burton as often as po sible.The Bears are also likely to find a good amount of succe s in the run game. Detroit's run defense was arguably the worst in the NFL before they traded for at the deadline, and in the two games since he landed in Detroit, they've allowed 178 yards on the ground to the and 128 to the Vikings. And that's with Harrison playing more than 60 percent of the snaps in both games. Chicago's Jordan Howard-led run game had been on a roll until it ran into the last week, but that game was over pretty much before it started and the offense barely had to do anything at all. The Bears had averaged 158.7 rush yards per game over the previous three weeks, and between Howard gashing up the middle, Cohen scooting around the edge, and the ever-present thread of Trubisky taking off with the ball himself on a scramble or read-option, they should have succe s running on the Lions as well. When the Lions have the ballDetroit's offense unsurprisingly struggled in the first game of the post-Golden Tate era last week, with the Vikings holding the Lions to just 209 total yards, 18 first downs, and nine points. All three of those figures checked in well below Detroit's season averages of 373.3 yards, 21.6 first downs, and 24.4 points per game prior to the contest.The Lions e sentially replaced Tate in their offense with scat-back , who had been out for a few weeks until returning, and while Riddick did catch seven pa ses, Chris Bosh Jersey they totaled just 36 yards. (T.J. Jones took most of the slot snaps but he was pretty much a non-factor.) Riddick is a strong pa s-catching option out of the backfield but he doesn't provide nearly the kind of downfield threat Tate does, nor is he nearly as good a run-after-catch guy as Tate, who has long been one of the best players in the league at creating additional yardage. One way to make up for Tate's absence would be for the Lions to figure out a way to get going again. Golladay got off to a scorching start to the season with 27 catches for 428 yards and three scores in the first five games, reaching at least 74 yards or a touchdown in each of those games. Over the past three games, he has six catches for 95 yards on just seven targets. I mean ... what???The Bears play sides with cornerbacks and , with Amukamara taking 99 percent of his snaps on the right side of the field and Fuller playing 100 percent on the left. That means Golladay will see a decent amount of both, as he tends to move around the formation. Neither is nece sarily the easiest guy to get going against. Among the 110 players who have been targeted in coverage at least 25 times, per Sports Info Solutions Meyers Leonard Jersey , Fuller ranks 13th in opponent pa ser rating and Amukamara ranks 54th.Detroit's offensive line had been very good in pa s protection this season until completely falling apart last week. was sacked 10 (TEN!!) times by the Vikings a week ago, and he barely had time to look downfield, let alone throw the ball. The Bears have 24 sacks on the season, but recorded just three combined against the and Bills with on the sideline the past two weeks. The reasonable expectation is that Mack returns this week, and that is very bad news for the Lions. When fully healthy he has been absolutely unstoppable this season, and aft