Thursday NFL preview: Buccaneers at Bears

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

Tampa Bay at Chicago,

Thurs., Oct. 8 — 8:20 pm ET

Soldier Field, Chicago

Television: FOX

Commentators: Joe Buck (PBP), Troy Aikman (analyst)

Sidelines: Erin Andrews, Kristina Pink

Streaming: Amazon

Commentators: Hannah Storm (PBP), Andrea Kramer (analyst)

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By Nick Pellegrino

Among the 16 teams in the NFC, only five own winning records through four weeks, including these two squads, both entering with 3-1 marks.

For Tampa Bay, they hold a 1-game advantage over New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South. Meanwhile, Chicago sits game back in the NFC North behind Green Bay; the Packers ate one of six undefeated clubs remaining in the NFL.

The Buccaneers enter as 3.5 point favorites (ther line opened at -4.5), but because of early money on the Bears, Vegas bookmakers seem reluctant to drop the number past 3.0, instead moving the juice to -115 plus the points on Chicago while Tampa Bay rests at -105 minus the points. This could change by kickoff.

The total remains at a constant 44 points, even though every Tampa Bay game has gone well over that total (except against Denver, when the Broncos QB was injured). On the flip side, every Bears home game has stayed Under the total (both landed on 30), while roadies went well Over.

Another reason for a lower-than-normal total: both sides rank in the Top 10 in both total defense and touchdowns allowed.

This should prove especially important for Chicago when they later meet the Packers twice this season. So far, the Bears have registered eight sacks and four takeaways, led by by a pair of playmaking linebackers Roquan Smith (team-high 33 tackles) and Khalil Mack (1.5 sacks).

Bucs quarterback Tom Brady, since dropping his debut outing for the Pewter, has won three straight, including a 5-touchdown performance over the Chargers last week. Meanwhile, the Bears now look to Nick Foles to direct an inconsistent offense. He threw for 249 yards in his first Chicago start in a setback at Indianapolis last week.

One reason Brady was so successful in his two decades with New England was head coach Bill Belichick’s ability to find low-end, low-pay receivers and turn them into stars. Brady is doing the same in South Florida with wideout Scotty Miller, who has already surpassed his 2019 totals with 15 receptions. Miller can also be considered as a top pick for Fantasy leagues.

For Chicago, despite the change at QB, Allen Robinson has 17 catches for 224 yards and two TDs over the past two contests.

The difference: an already short week will especially hurt Tampa Bay with travel and a ton of injuries to the receiver corps; out of practice this week were:  Mike Evans (ankle), Chris Godwin (hamstring), Justin Watson (chest), and Miller (groin).Plus, tight end O.J. Howard is lost for the year with (Achilles rupture),

In addition, Tampa Bay running backs Leonard Fournette (ankle) and LeSean McCoy (ankle) are both game-time decisions

Thus, if this M*A*S*H report plays out, the defensive unit from CHICAGO should be the winner. In fact, a money-line play on the Bears (at +175) may be better )and more profitable) than simply taking the points.

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