Despite only putting up 14 points against the Packers, you can see the Bears offense showing steady progress with Justin Fields leading the way. The run game is cooking, the pass game is generating more chunk plays, and the red zone offense has been more productive. But what it’s lacked is consistency. Against some teams in the NFL, a few good drives and a few splash plays may be enough to eke out a win. But this week the Bears are playing the defending champs, and they’ll need to do much more than that to pull off the upset on the road.
MOVE THE BALL ON EVERY DRIVE
If the Bears want to win, they’ll need to rack up first downs far more consistently than they did last week. Not only will that give them more scoring opportunities, it will also help them in the field position battle and help them control the clock. The latter will keep Tom Brady off the field as much as possible, too. To help keep the chains moving, they’ll have to avoid penalties and negative plays. That includes Fields holding onto the ball too long and taking unnecessary sacks. This is easier said than done against the Buccaneers, who field the best run defense in the league, but the Bears’ offensive line has done an excellent job opening holes (with help from the tight ends and wideouts) and they’ll need to stick to their strengths to give themselves 3rd-and-manageable scenarios.
SCORE ON DEFENSE
The Bucs are so explosive that even if the offense plays their best game of the year, they may need some additional help. That’s where the defense can chip in, beyond trying to limit Brady and Co.’s big plays. Despite their emphasis on taking the ball away, the Bears are tied for 13th in the league with seven takeaways, four of which came in Week 2 against the Bengals. Part of what made their defense dominant in the past has been the ability to score after taking the ball away, but they’ve yet to do that this season. Splash plays like that have been noticeably missing, and could go a long way in turning the tide of a game like this一 or at least in helping to keep the score close.
PLUG UP THE BUCS’ RUN GAME
Stopping the run has been a calling card for this defense for several years, and is a key component for setting up obvious passing downs. That’s allowed the Bears edge rushers to aggressively pursue the quarterback at times, and is a big reason why the Bears lead the league in sacks. Last week it looked like that pass rush was going to seriously hinder the Packers’ offense, but when Green Bay turned to Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon, the defense couldn’t stop them. The Bears will have a tough enough time trying to stop the Bucs’ dynamic playmakers in the passing game, but if they can’t bottle up Leonard Fournette on the ground their job will become infinitely harder.
FINAL SCORE PREDICTION
The Bears are showing improvement week after week, but they don’t appear to be in the same class as the reigning Super Bowl champs yet. To be fair, most teams don’t. Add in the fact that Brady will likely be looking for revenge after last years’ embarrassing loss, and Matt Nagy’s team will probably have to play a near perfect game to get the win.
Buccaneers: 30, Bears: 17