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This could get real ugly: Bears-Bucs game preview

Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champion Bucs host the Bears following 10 days of prep. What could go wrong?

NFL: OCT 14 Buccaneers at Eagles Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

So the Chicago Bears reward for getting owned by their arch nemesis on their home field is that they get to go on the road and face the defending Super Bowl Champions coming off 10 days rest and the memory of their second-biggest defeat a season ago on their minds?

The NFL is unforgiving in that way, totally unrelenting, and it’s just the slate that the schedule makers handed the Bears.

Tom Brady has slaughtered the Bears time and time again, in fact their only defeat of him came last year in that Thursday night upset.

But I can’t help but be haunted by the idea that Tom Brady has been stewing on the meme of him holding up four fingers on TV last year after the Bears took over on downs and it appeared that Brady wasn’t sure that his team’s possession was over. Brady doesn’t seem like the type to be ultra competitive and driven to near madness by any perceived slight, right? Nahh, it’ll be fine...

I’m also sure he hasn’t been watching film of the Bears secondary for the last 10 days and noticed that everyone not in a 33 jersey is susceptible to the weapons he has at his disposal. No, I’m sure this will be fine.

And that’s not at all indicated by the fact that DraftKings Sportsbook currently has the Bears as 12.5 point underdogs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

SB Nation site: Bucs Nation

Record: 5-1

Last week: 28-22 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday Night Football

Game day, time, TV: Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CT, CBS

Game odds, according to DraftKings Sportsbook: Tampa Bay -12.5, O/U 47.5

Bears all-time record against: 40-20

Historical meetings: In week 10 of the 2001 season, the 6-1 Bears traveled to Raymond James Stadium to meet the 4-4 Buccaneers.

Despite involving two top defenses, the offenses popped off, with Jim Miller throwing for 228 yards and three touchdowns, all to Marty Booker, who had 165 receiving yards on seven catches.

For Tampa Bay, Brad Johnson threw for 399 yards but two interceptions and no touchdowns. Tampa’s points came from a Mike Alstott rush and a Brad Johnson run as well, both in the fourth quarter as the Bucs raced to close a 24-9 deficit.

The Bears held on though and won 27-24.

Last meeting: Week five last year on Thursday night, the Bears hosted Tampa in what turned out to be one of the final highlights of the 2020 Bears season.

Chicago sacked Tom Brady three times, including two by Khalil Mack over then-rookie phenom Tristan Wirfs.

Robert Quinn recovered a fumble and Nick Foles did just enough for the Bears to win 20-19.

Injury report: Five players were listed on Tampa’s Wednesday injury report as not participating in practice:

  • WR Antonio Brown (ankle)
  • ILB Lavonte David (ankle)
  • TE Rob Gronkowski (ribs)
  • TE OJ Howard (ankle)
  • OLB Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder/hand)

Offense: The Bucs offense comes in ranked third in points and yards.

Their passing offense is number one in the league, while their rushing attack is way back in 28th.

But when you have Tom Brady (68.5 pct. cmp./2,064 yds./17 TD/3 INT) throwing to Mike Evans (31 rec./420 yds./4 TD), Antonio Brown (29/418/4) and Chris Godwin (34/409/2), who needs a ground game?

And don’t forget that Rob Gronkowski (16/184/4) is here but also injured.

That ground game is led by Leonard Fournette (78 att./332 yds./3 TD), who is also a threat in the passing game (25/213/0). Spelling Fournette is Ronald Jones III (31/118/1).

Defense: The Buccaneers defense ranks 16th in points allowed and ninth in yards allowed.

Their passing and rushing defensive standings are almost the exact opposite of their offense: They rank 27th in pass defense and first in rushing defense.

Their banged up secondary is holding them back, but make no mistake that this unit is loaded with talent from LBs Lavonte David (34 tkls/1 sk/1 TFL), Devin White (41 tkls/7 QB hits/2 PD), to S Antoine Winfield Jr. (1 INT/1 FF/2 PD/25 tkls), to EDGE Shaquill Barrett (4 sks/5 TFL/1 INT/1 FF/7 QB hits) and DT Vita Vea (1.5 sk/5 QB hits).

There’s also veterans like Jason Pierre-Paul (0.5 sk/1 TFL/2 QB hits), Ndamukong Suh (1 sk/2 TFL/5 QB hits) and CB Richard Sherman.

The Bucs defense is very banged up though (see the injury report) and their secondary has been especially pushed with injuries.

Key match ups: The Bears defensive line is probably the most important unit for their success in this game. They have to get pressure on and hit Tom Brady in order to have any chance.

Brady is too dangerous and it’s too tall a task to ask this secondary to hold against the bevy of weapons Tampa has. The Bucs’ offense is different without Gronkowski, that’s Brady’s security blanket and in the three games without him they’re scoring a field goal less than with him.

On offense, the Bears have to take advantage of the Bucs’ secondary. It’s one of the worst in the league and it has injuries up and down it. Antoine Winfield looks like he’ll return to the line up (full participant Wednesday) but their corners are injured and haven’t been playing well. It’s time to let Justin Fields throw some more.

Running room is going to be hard to find against a very stout defensive line, that will certainly have an advantage against the Bears’ suspect offensive line, so now is the time to get Fields moving outside the pocket on roll outs and bootlegs. The Bears need to stay committed to the run enough to be able to utilize play action and keep the Bucs from just rushing down after down.

Key stats:

  • The Bucs have allowed a 300-yard passer three times this season, but now one since week 3. The Bears have allowed just one 300 yard passer this year (Stafford, week one)
  • This match up between Brady and Fields is the largest age gap between starting quarterbacks in NFL history. (source)
  • The Bucs defense ranks 23rd on third downs with opponents converting 43.8 percent of their attempts.
  • Tampa’s red zone offense ranks 12th, getting at touchdown 64.3 percent of the time, while Chicago ranks third in red zone defense, holding opponents to touchdowns on just 45 percent of the time.
  • The Bears have yet to have a quarterback throw for more than 209 yards in a game this season. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged 292.7 yards per game against the Buccaneers
  • The Bucs have three players with over 400 receiving yards and three players with four touchdown receptions each. The Bears have one player with more than 300 receiving yards and three total passing touchdowns.
  • Tom Brady has 118 more passing attempts than Andy Dalton and Justin Fields combined but the Bears have 31 more rushing attempts than the Bucs (including all QB runs as attempts)

Do the Bears have any chance this week? Can the Bears upset the Bucs two years in a row?