The Bears’ schedule does not get any easier in Week 7, as they will travel to Tampa Bay to face the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.
And, as of early in the week, the Bucs are favored by nearly two touchdowns. It’s the first time the Bears have been double-digit underdogs this season.
Here are the best Bears vs. Buccaneers odds at Illinois sportsbooks.
Bears @ Buccaneers odds for Week 7
Check out the lines at online sportsbooks in Illinois:
The Bucs are 5-1 this season and have looked especially dominant at home. They are 3-0 at Raymond James Stadium and are scoring 41.3 points per game over those three contests.
The Bears’ defense has been good, although not impeccable. Chicago ranks second in the NFL in sacks per game, as Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn are living up to their hefty contracts. The team ranks seventh in opposing yards per game.
But as we saw against the Packers, a quality defense going against a talented foe can only prop up a struggling offense for so long. And even if the Bears give Brady more issues than other defenses have this season, is there any reason to believe Justin Fields and Chicago will score enough points to compete?
Here’s how many points the Bears have scored in Fields’ four starts this season: 6, 24, 20, 14. Tampa Bay ranks ninth in yards allowed, but if Fields has one of his better showings, the Bears have a chance to cover.
Why Fields may need to carry the Bears offense
The Bucs may rank ninth in opposing yards per game, but they have one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.
Tampa Bay is 27th in opposing passing yards per game. And given the drastic difference, you guessed it — that means the Buccaneers have the best-run defense in the league, and it’s not close. They surrender just 54.8 rushing yards per game, the top mark in the NFL by more than 15 yards.
And what’s the one thing the Bears have consistently done well this season? Run the ball. Chicago is seventh in the league in rushing.
All three of the Bears’ top running backs — David Montgomery, Damien Williams and Khalil Herbert — have looked great this season. Herbert, the rookie third-stringer, ran for 97 yards on 19 carries on Sunday.
Even if Williams returns from the COVID-19 list for Week 7, it would not be surprising to see Herbert start.
With all of that said, the Buccaneers’ front seven is absurdly good. So if Chicago is going to have any shot to hang, Fields will need to have his best game as a pro.
And while Fields has made excellent throws and shown off his dynamic open-field speed, he’s mostly struggled as a rookie. He’s averaging 6.4 yards per pass attempt, which ranks 30th among qualified passers.
When evaluating Fields’ future, caveats are necessary — the Bears are awful at pass blocking, the receivers struggle to get open and the Browns game negatively skewed some of the stats. Still, when talking about going up against Brady and the Bucs on the road, one can see why the Bears are nearly two-touchdown underdogs.
The Bears have been right to take it slow with Fields, emphasizing a competent running game. But in Week 7, it might be time to unleash the rookie.
Chicago has struggled as a heavy underdog under Matt Nagy
In Nagy’s tenure, the Bears have been terrible — straight up and against-the-spread — as sizable underdogs.
With the Packers’ loss on Sunday, the Bears are 2-15 straight up under Nagy when they are at least a field goal underdog. That is to be expected, but they are also 3-14 against the spread in such situations.
The latter stat is particularly telling.
For what it’s worth, one of those wins came in Week 5 against the Raiders. Still, the Bears have not shown an ability to serve as a ‘pesky underdog’ with this regime.
Will that change on Sunday? Maybe, maybe not. But Bears fans can all agree that at least this game is not in prime time.
The Bears and Bucs will kick off at 3:25 p.m. CST this Sunday on CBS.