Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Chicago Bears – Week 5 Super Bowl Rematch??
By Joanne Kong
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (3-1) vs CHICAGO BEARS (3-1)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t been in a Super Bowl since the 2002 season in Super Bowl XXXVII (37), defeating the Oakland Raiders (now the Las Vegas Raiders), 48-21. That year, the Buccaneers finished first in the NFC South with head coach John Gruden and quarterback Brad Johnson.
In the NFC North, the Chicago Bears haven’t won a Super Bowl since 1985, but last played in Super Bowl XLI (41) in 2006, losing to the Indianapolis Colts 17-29.
However, this Thursday night, these two teams will meet in Solider Field with their new Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks. The Bucs have Tom Brady, who previously led the New England Patriots to nine Super Bowls and won six of them. And the Bears have Nick Foles, who previously led the Philadelphia Eagles to win Super Bowl 52 against the aforementioned Brady and the Patriots.
According to sportsbettingdime.com’s NFL odds, the Buccaneers are 5.5 point favorites with a consensus favoring the them on the moneyline (ML) and against the spread (ATS), but close to even on picking the over/under.
How do the Buccaneers and Bears match up?
Brady has led the Buccaneers so far to a 3-1 season, sitting on top of the NFC South, proving he can make essentially any team a Super Bowl contender. Through week 4, Brady has 1,122 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Week 4 in particular was a prime example of Brady’s skill in the pocket. Trailing for most of the game, Brady threw five touchdowns to five different receivers for 369 yards and only one interception. It’s not just the Buccaneers passing game that the Bears will need to contend with though. In week 4, the Buccaneers rushed for 115 yards, with Ronald Jones III leading the backfield with 20 carries for 111 yards, his best game of the season so far.
And Tampa Bay’s defense has been no slouch either as they’ve allowed only an average of 64.3 rush yards per game after four weeks, second best in the NFL. In week 4, the Los Angeles Chargers managed only 46 rushing yards, although Austin Ekeler, the Chargers top running back, left the game with a hamstring injury in the first quarter. The Bears will also have to contend with linebacker Lavonte David, NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September. This can’t be good news for the Bears, who only managed 28 rush yards against the Indianapolis Colts in week 4.
Foles made his debut in week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons in the second half after Mitchell Trubisky was benched as the Bears trailed 10-23. Foles magically managed to throw 3 touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win the game 30-26.
#Bears coach Matt Nagy announces the obvious: Nick Foles is now their starting QB.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 28, 2020
In week 4, Foles didn’t find the same success against the Indianapolis Colts losing 11-19. Foles had one good drive against the Colts, which lead to a field goal. With that said, Foles struggled for most of the game, having a 61.9% completion percentage for the game, only completing 26 of 42 passes. Foles 64% accuracy against the Indianapolis Colts was barely better than Trubisky’s 61% through three games. This raises the question of who is actually responsible – the players or the coach?
I'm starting to think Matt Nagy is the problem with the bears offense. I dont want to give mitch too much of the benefit of the doubt but ever since matt nagy became our head coach the bears offense hasn't been that well, maybe like 7 games out of 38 it did. But that's not good
— Melvyn Windmon (@MelAboveAll_) October 4, 2020
There’s been a lot of criticism of Bears head coach Matt Nagy’s play calling from fans.
Matt Nagy on every 3rd and very long pic.twitter.com/j0ZFjam9iT
— Tommy (@TStout97) October 4, 2020
Foles only managed 4 of 14 3rd down conversions against the Colts, finishing the game with a 42.4 quarterback rating. With only one passing touchdown to Allen Robinson and a total of 28 rush yards, the Bears are obviously having problems. In one and a half games, Foles has 437 passing yards, 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
The Bears have zero rushing touchdowns over four weeks. They averaged 110.5 rush yards per game, many of which were wide receiver carries. Their lead running back, David Montgomery, has totaled only 218 rush yards over four games, and the dynamic Tarik Cohen is now out on IR. The Bears look to be missing an essential part of the offense, putting even more pressure on Foles, both mentally and literally, as defenses have simply keyed on alternating between creating pass rush pressure or dropping into coverage, making the Bears essentially one dimensional.
However, there is some hope for the Bears. The Buccaneers injury list of players on offense is extensive. Mike Evans is hampered with an ankle sprain, Leonard Fournette is out for the foreseeable future with an ankle injury, LeSean McCoy is dealing with an ankle injury, Chris Godwin has been out with a hamstring injury, and OJ Howard is out for the season with an Achilles injury. Even Scotty Miller, although showing occasional flash, is dealing with a persistent hip and groin injury. Evans, Howard and Miller were three of the five recipients of Brady touchdown passes in week 4. With a short turn around to Thursday Night, Brady might find himself short on targets and significantly hampered in the pass game. The Bears defense hasn’t been as dominant as it has been in the past, but they’re still ranked 5th against the pass per DVOA this season and these Bucs injuries certainly can work to their advantage on Thursday. [UPDATE – 10/8/20 – Chris Godwin, LeSean McCoy and Justin Watson has been ruled out.]
The Bears prime objective for week 5 is to cause pass pressure and sack Brady in hopes of throwing him off his game.
#DaBears defense leads the league in TD percentage in the red zone. ?♂️
Find out how we stack up in several ? stats heading into Week 5.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) October 6, 2020
It’s easier said than done, but even without gaudy sack stats, the Bears defense is ranked 3rd in third-down efficiency, allowing conversions on only 34.4 percent of attempts, and has the league’s best touchdown percentage in the red zone (37.5). Plus, the defense ranks 7th in yards per play (5.3), yards per pass attempt (6.2) and points allowed (81). So the tools are there.
However, Brady’s offensive line didn’t allow the Chargers in week 4 to get a single sack, and for the season, Brady has only been sacked 5 times. In comparison, Deshaun Watson, quarterback for the Houston Texans, leads the league in sacks with 16 and Joe Burrows, rookie quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, is a close second with 15 sacks for the season.
Brady has faced the Bears 5 times during his career as a Patriot, three of them at Soldier Field, and sports a 5-0 record. There’s certainly the storyline that he’ll not only be looking to extend that record, but to also defeat his Super Bowl 52 nemesis, Nick Foles, on Thursday Night.
Brady has 76.8% on-target passing accuracy over four games with the Buccaneers, and 18.5% of poor throws per pass attempts.
Foles has 76.8% on-target passing accuracy in a game and a half, and 20.3% of poor throws per pass attempts.
With similar pass percentages going into week 5, and both teams at 3-1, it’ll certainly be interesting to see if Brady takes his revenge or if Foles remains his kryptonite. But I think that without a significant ground game, unless “Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles” returns, the Buccaneers do just enough even without healthy receivers.