NFL Thursday Night Football: Buccaneers/Bears Preview

by Big Al Staff

A battle of 3-1 football teams kicks off the fifth week of the NFL season for Thursday Night Football.

Tampa Bay has responded to their 34-23 loss at New Orleans in the opening week of the season with three straight victories after their 38-31 win at home over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. Buccaneers’ head coach Bruce Arians commented after the game that his team would have probably lost that contest last season. They fell behind by a 24-7 score in the second quarter before going into the locker rooms at halftime trailing by a 24-14 score.

Tom Brady is the difference for this team this year. He played his best game in a Buccaneers uniform by completing 30 of 46 passes for 369 yards with five touchdown passes to lead his new team to the comeback victory. Brady has thrown 11 touchdown throws this season, tied for the 4th most in the NFL. Tampa Bay has increased the total yardage each week, with Brady also improving his passer rating in each game as he becomes more comfortable operating in Arians’ offense. He has also already thrown four interceptions this year to continue the nagging problem of turnovers that plagued this team last year with Jameis Winston under center.

The Buccaneers have outscored their last three opponents by a 97 to 58 margin after that initial loss to the Saints. While the Brady addition to the franchise gets most of the attention, this has become an outstanding defense under the leadership of coordinator Todd Bowles. Tampa Bay’s defense is second in the NFL by holding their opponents to just 64.3 rushing yards per game. The Bucs’ are also third with 14 sacks while ranking second with their eight takeaways.

The injury bug has hit this team. Tampa Bay lost tight end O.J. Howard for the season to his Achilles injury on Sunday. The Buccaneers’ top four wide receivers did not take part in Tuesday’s practice to prepare for this game on a short week. Chris Godwin and Justin Watson are out for this game with Mike Evans and Scottie Miller remaining questionable. Running back LeSean McCoy is also out for tonight with his stablemate in the backfield, Leonard Fournette, downgraded to doubtful and a game-time decision with his ankle injury. Ronald Jones III should get the majority of carries for Tampa Bay in this game.

Chicago’s injury concerns are not as lengthy. The Bears’ depth in their secondary has taken a hit with defensive backs Deon Bush and Sherrick McManis with doubtful with injuries. Chicago is without running back Tarik Cohen, who is out the season with an ACL injury leaving the backfield duties primarily to David Montgomery. But linebacker Khalil Mack is off the injury report this week after being listed as questionable for each of the first four weeks of the season with his knee issues.

Chicago saw their three-game winning streak snapped last week in a 19-11 loss at home to Indianapolis as a 3.5-point underdog. New starting quarterback Nick Foles struggled in a performance that begs the question as to whether or not Mitchell Trubisky would have benched if he had put up similar numbers. Foles completed 26 of 42 passes for 249 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception. The Bears rushed the ball only 16 times for 28 yards for a 1.8 yards-per-carry average.

This game will be the first time that Brady will face off against Foles in a battle of starting quarterbacks since Super Bowl LII when the Eagles defeated the Patriots by a 41-33 score. With both players playing for different teams, BetAnySports has Tampa Bay as a 3.5-point favorite with the total set at 44.5. Fox, the NFL Network, and Amazon will all have the broadcast with the kickoff set shortly after 8:20 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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