- Tampa Bay’s offense has increased their total yardage output each week to a season-high 484 in Week 4.
Two 3-1 teams face off Thursday night, but rather than equal foes, they look more like ships passing in the night. The Bears started the season 3-0, and a wild 3-0 it was. In Week 1, they erased a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit in part thanks to the Lions suffering multiple secondary injuries that allowed Mitchell Trubisky to throw for three scores. Detroit really struggled to put that game away, but still had a chance late when rookie D’Andre Swift dropped a potential winning touchdown on the game’s penultimate play.
In Week 2, Chicago got out to an early lead against a Giants team who lost the centerpiece of their offense, Saquon Barkley, to a first-quarter ACL tear. The Bears struggled to put New York away at home, ultimately winning 17-13 in a game that had no business being that close. Then in Week 3, Chicago again found themselves down big, this time erasing a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit against Atlanta’s swiss cheese defense after benching their starting quarterback.
Backup Nick Foles got the job done in that one, but he looked lost in Week 4. Chicago managed just 3 points all game until a late touchdown and 2-point conversion with 1:41 left in their 19-11 home loss to Indianapolis. The Colts so far rank first in Football-Outsiders’ defensive DVOA metric, so Chicago’s struggles to score points may have been understandable. One issue, though: Tampa Bay’s defense has looked fantastic through the first month as well, and they rank second in that same DVOA rating. Short week situations tend to favor the home team, but I have a hard time expecting a Bears offense that lacks firepower outside of Allen Robinson to drastically improve over that Week 3 performance in four days’ time.
The Buccaneers had their own big come-from-behind victory this past week, but that was a little different. Tampa fell behind early in part because of a Tom Brady interception returned for a touchdown. It was a questionable read and throw, but that play was more on the receiver for me. Depth player Justin Watson who was only in the lineup because of Chris Godwin’s hamstring injury committed the cardinal sin when running an out route to the sideline — he rounded his break and didn’t get his head turned around, giving the defensive back an easy path to undercut the throw.
That one mistake aside, Brady has looked better each week. After being down 24-14 at halftime, Brady and the Bucs put together four straight drives of more than 60 yards to start the second half against an actually strong defense in the Chargers that has otherwise been very tough on opposing offenses this year. Brady seems to be settling into his new offense ever since a Week 1 loss to the Saints, and with his offensive line playing at a high level, Tampa as a team has produced more offensive yardage each week than the game before. Despite injuries to several important skill position pieces like Godwin, O.J. Howard, and Leonard Fournette, the Bucs do still have playmaking talent. And while the Bears present a stiff defensive test for Brady and the passing game, Tampa Bay’s hot rushing attack could find some success to help offset any struggles.
I expect a low-scoring affair, but Thursday night games can get a little wonky, so I’m a little hesitant to take the under. What I’m less hesitant about right now is the Buccaneers being the better team. It’s tough to take a significant road favorite on a short week, but Tampa has the better of two good defenses and are playing at a much higher level on the offensive side. Give me Brady to get back at Foles in this quarterback rematch of Super Bowl LII.
NFL Expert Picks
PICK: Bucs -4.5 @ +112
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Week 5 of the NFL season is here, starting with Tom Brady's Bucs facing the Bears at Soldier Field. There's a host of exciting games on the slate this Sunday although the NFL world is set for more potential postponements in light of recent positive Covid-19 tests. The week will end with Justin Herbert given a primetime game to showcase his talents as the Chargers face Drew Brees' Saints in New Orleans.