The Chicago Bears will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night in a matchup of 3-1 teams.
But that’s where the similarities end between these two. The Bears and Bucs are heading in opposite directions.
Tampa Bay mounted an impressive 38-31 comeback win over the Chargers on Sunday behind five touchdown passes from Tom Brady. The Bucs have now won three-straight games.
The Bears, meanwhile, reverted to their porous 2019 offensive ways behind Nick Foles against the Colts. They lost 19-11, and eight of those points came in garbage time.
Here’s your Thursday Night Football betting preview.
Buccaneers @ Bears odds
|TB Buccaneers||-3.5, 44.5||-3.5, 44.5||-3.5, 44||-3.5, 44.5||-3.5, 44.5|
|CHI Bears||+3.5, 44.5||+3.5, 44||+3.5, 44||+3.5, 44.5||+3.5, 44.5|
The Bears don’t have any substantial injuries besides Tarik Cohen but are sizable home underdogs against a team whose record is identical.
In other words, the Bears’ record doesn’t tell the whole story.
Chicago’s three wins this season have come against the Lions, Giants and Falcons.
That trio’s combined 2020 record is 1-10.
The Colts clearly presented the Bears’ toughest test of the year, and Chicago couldn’t muster more than a field goal for most of the game.
Mitchell Trubisky might not be great, but he wasn’t the only problem on offense.
Coming into the season, the best-case scenario for the Bears was that their offense was mediocre, and their defense was transformative.
Four weeks in, the offense is bad, and the defense is solid — but a far cry from transformative.
The Bears rank 25th in scoring offense and 26th in yards per play. On defense, they are seventh in scoring, but 21st in takeaways.
The biggest reason why the Bears were so dominant in 2018 was that they led the league in takeaways. The defense hasn’t had the same juice since Chuck Pagano replaced Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator.
That unit will face a tough test with a little time to prepare on Thursday.
What we know about the Buccaneers
Anti-Bucs memes were flying around Twitter when they lost to the Saints in Week 1, but they’ve looked good ever since.
In his last three games, Brady has thrown for nine touchdown passes to two interceptions. He’s completed more than 65% of his throws in all three contests.
Brady was buoyed by the run game on Sunday, as Ronald Jones ran for 111 yards against the Chargers. The Bucs still rank just 27th in rushing yards per game, an area of relative weakness for the Bears sans Eddie Goldman.
Chicago is 15th in rush defense.
The Bucs are averaging 32.3 points per game over their last three, but star wideout Chris Godwin has been ruled out.
Mike Evans left the Chargers game briefly, but ultimately returned and caught seven passes for 122 yards.
The fact that Evans was able to return is good news for his Thursday status, but he’s questionable as of Wednesday.
The Tampa Bay defense is much improved, despite its rough showing against the Chargers. The Bucs rank fourth in total defense through four games.
Granted, they beefed up against a brutal Broncos offense in Week 3. But beyond Denver, the Bucs have faced solid offenses in the Panthers, Chargers and Saints.
They’ve been particularly stingy on the ground. (Looking at you, David Montgomery fantasy owners.) The Bucs are allowing 64.2 rushing yards per game, second in the NFL.
Chicago had been running the ball well going into Week 4, but averaged 1.8 yards per carry against Indy.
The Bucs are a bit more vulnerable through the air, but will Foles be able to take advantage?
He dominated a horrendous Falcons secondary in his first outing, and struggled mightily against a terrific Colts unit the next week.
The Bucs fall closer to the Colts on that spectrum than the Falcons, hence the current spread.
The game will air on Fox and the NFL Network at 7:20 p.m. CST.