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Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Chicago Bears: Game Preview

Which team will come out of this game with a 4-1 record?

Can Nick Foles get the offense going against the Bucs’ defense?
| Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) are heading back to Soldier Field for the second time in three seasons to take on the Chicago Bears (3-1).

The Bucs are beat up on offense —especially in the receiving corps— while the Bears are still figuring things out on offense. Nick Foles replaced Mitchell Trubisky as the starting quarterback in Week Four against the Colts, but the Bears scored a season-low 11 points in that contest, which left many up North scratching their heads.

Will the offenses find ways to make some plays tonight or will the defenses rise to the occasion? Let’s dive into this week’s preview.


Overview

  • All-time series: The former NFC Central rival leads the all-time series, 39-20.
  • Longest win streak: The Bears won 12 in a row (!!) from 1983-1988.
  • Largest margin of victory: Tampa Bay annihilated Chicago, 41-0, back in 2000.
  • 2020 offensive and defensive rankings: The Bucs are eighth in overall offense (9th passing, 26th rushing) and ninth in total defense (20th passing, 2nd rushing). The Bears are 22nd in overall offense (19th passing, 18th rushing) and eighth in total defense (11th passing, 16th rushing).
NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
How effective will Mike Evans be (if he plays) on Thursday night?
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What To Watch For

  • Tampa Bay’s offense: What in the hell will it look like Thursday night? Will the Bucs be able to take deep shots in the passing game? How effective will they be on offense due to all of the injuries?
  • The Bucs’ offensive line: This unit needs to have its best game of the season if the Bucs want to win. The front five is coming off its best game of the year against the Chargers. Let’s hope they can start stacking consistent performances with a good one on Thursday.
  • A fierce red zone battle: The Bucs are tied for the second-best red zone touchdown conversion rate (80%) on the 10th-most trips (15). The Bears own the league’s best red zone touchdown conversion rate (37.5%) on the 10th-most trips (16), so it’s not like teams aren’t getting inside the 20 when they play the Bears. Chicago is strictly shutting teams down when they get to that part of the field. Tampa Bay can’t let that happen.
  • Tampa Bay’s receivers: This feels like low-hanging fruit, but it’s integral to the matchup. Mike Evans made the trip, so he’ll likely play, but he’s obviously not 100%. Someone outside of Scotty Miller is going to have to make some plays.
  • Special teams: The Colts blocked a Bear punt last week. The Bucs missed a field goal against the Chargers. We’ve seen the good and bad from the Bucs’ special teams and it’s helped them both win and lose games. Field position will be a huge factor on Thursday, so these units need to fire on all cylinders for their respective teams.

Impact Players

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • QB Tom Brady: Did you see that second half against the Chargers? That looked like the Brady of old. The Bucs are going to need him more than ever against the Bears.
  • The Bucs’ offensive line: I’m just going to go ahead and say it. The offensive line is the key to this game. Especially Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs.
  • RB Ronald Jones II: He had his second-career 100 rushing yard game, but had a really bad case of the drops last week. That can’t happen during this game.
  • DL Vita Vea: The Bears have had issues going up against good interior defensive linemen, so expect Vea to make some plays in this game.
  • OLB Jason Pierre-Paul: Charles Leno Jr. (the Bears’ left tackle) had a really, really bad game last week. Can JPP take advantage of the drop in play?
  • CB Carlton Davis III: Chicago’s biggest threat on offense is Allen Robinson and with good reason. He’s one of the game’s best and will need to be corralled by Davis.
NFL: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Khalil Mack isn’t racking up the stats like he usually does, but you still can’t count him out.
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears

  • QB Nick Foles: Is he the answer? It seemed that way during the fourth quarter in Week Three, but it sure didn’t look like it in Week Four.
  • RB David Montgomery: The Bears will have to find some sort of balance on offense and they’ll certainly look to Montgomery in order to get that done.
  • WR Allen Robinson II: See my comments above. Robinson is one of the best and has a chance for a big night if Foles can get it going.
  • DL Bilal Nichols: Akiem Hicks is the main guy on the interior, but if Nichols shows up like he did against the Colts then this defensive line will wreak havoc against the Bucs.
  • LB Roquan Smith: He’s heating up after a 13-tackle performance against the Colts and is easily the Bears’ best linebacker.
  • S Eddie Jackson: One of the league’s best safeties who can play both the run and the pass. He is also a ballhawk, so let’s hope one of Brady’s passes don’t end up in his arms.

Cool Stats

  • Tampa Bay has registered at least one interception in each of the past three contests. With at least one interception at Chicago, it would mark the first time since 2016 that the team has recorded an interception in four consecutive games (11/13/16 vs. Chicago-12/11/16 vs. New Orleans).
  • The Buccaneers held each of their past two opponents under 50 rushing yards, matching a franchise record. If Tampa Bay holds Chicago under 50 rushing yards, it will mark the longest streak of such games in team history.
  • Dating back to the 2019 season, the Buccaneers have held 10 consecutive opponents under 100 rushing yards, establishing a franchise record. If Tampa Bay holds the Bears under 100 rushing yards, the team will establish a new franchise record. The 2014 Detroit Lions is the last NFL team to hold at least 11 consecutive opponents under 100 rushing yards (11 games, 10/5/14-12/21/14).
  • Brady has 11 passing touchdowns, tied for the most through four games in franchise history. He needs one passing touchdown at Chicago to tie Brad Johnson (12 in 2003) for the most through five games in franchise history.
  • Brady has 1,122 passing yards this season. With 250 passing yards against Chicago he can pass Jameis Winston (1,371 in 2019) for the most passing yards through five games in team history.
NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Can Tom Brady break some of those records on Thursday night?
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Game Outlook

I won’t lie: I’m pretty nervous about this game.

The Bucs are coming off an emotional win. The Bears are coming off a frustrating loss and are looking for a spark. Usually, this is a dangerous recipe, especially when you add in the Bucs’ injuries.

The Bears’ front seven is dangerous and can certainly exploit the Bucs’ offensive line. If that happens, then this game could get ugly for Tampa Bay. The last thing the Bucs need to do is give Foles a short field, extra chances, or any type of help in this game. He’s had an up-and-down career, but we’ve seen what it looks like when he’s on his game. Tampa Bay has to avoid that at all costs.

But even with the injuries, the Bucs should still be considered as the better team. Maybe not by much, but it’s true. As long as they come in with a sound game plan (which will be interesting to see develop) and don’t make mistakes, then expect them to eek one out in Chicago.

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