Chicago Bears (2-6 SU, 2-6 ATS) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5 SU, 3-5 ATS)
Week 10 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, November 13, 2016 at 1PM EST
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: CHI -2.5/TB +2.5
Over/Under Total: 45.5
The Chicago Bears come to Raymond James Stadium to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Chicago is coming off the bye and was able to enter their off-week with some momentum after a 20-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings in week eight, They are just 2-6, but looked so good against the Vikes that they can now attack the second-half of the season with some optimism. Tampa Bay lost badly at home against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday Night Football, 43-28, in a game that wasn't even that close. The streaky Bucs have now lost two straight games, which followed a two-game win streak. At 3-5, they really need something good to happen.
The way Chicago played against the Vikings was almost shocking, as the favored Vikes could never find their way into the game. It was one thing to see the offense find some timely success, but 20 points is 20 points at the end of the day. Still, Jay Cutler's first game in weeks was a definite success on 20-for-31 passing, 252 yards and a TD with no picks. The big performance on offense came from rookie back Jordan Howard, who ran for 153 yards and a TD. He had some duds for the past few weeks, but with three 100+-yard rushing efforts in 5 games, he's establishing himself as a real force. And with 49 yards receiving to boot, he's also a threat in other ways.
The Bears' aerial game has taken some hits this season. With Eddie Royal (questionable) missing time, they have been without a weapon that was starting to develop nicely in this offense. Cutler's absence was a bad break, even if Brian Hoyer did have some moments of productivity in his absence. It was good to see Cutler leading the team and showing a positive presence in the huddle and on the sidelines, as opposed the bratty and negative countenance he can sometimes display when pouting from tough times. Still, the pass-game has suffered from personnel issues. Royal is listed as questionable, Alshon Jeffery is still a handful, and Zack Miller continues to be productive. Maybe at some point, WR Cameron Meredith can rediscover the form that allowed him to make 20 catches in two games a few weeks ago, before slowing down recently.
Against the Vikings, the Chicago defense showed what can happen when they put it together. The team has been pretty bad this season, but the defense has always remained somewhat resolute. With some more help from the offense, including a run game exploding last week, the defense can really get its bearings and show what it can do. They actually have really good balance, though they're not really a difference-making defense. What they can do is just provide a really thorough effort across all phases of the unit. While Minnesota has been struggling on offense, the Bears' "D" held them to three points until late in the final quarter. Similar efforts on defense, combined with more progress and consistency on offense will have Chicago in a lot of games in the second half of the season.
Tampa is hard to figure out this year. They won the opener against the same Falcons team that smashed them in their last game, lost three in a row, won two in a row, and have now dropped two in a row. Their Thursday Night Football loss to Atlanta was pretty ugly. Tampa got off to a 7-0 start. Atlanta came back with 13 straight points, before Tampa nudged ahead 14-13. Early in the 4th quarter, it was 40-14, Falcons. A few late Tampa TDs made the score look halfway respectable, but Tampa fans and backers alike would attest to how bad they looked overall. They still haven't won at home this season, whereas the Bears are somehow better on the road the last few seasons.
The maligned Tampa defense was not at its best on Thursday, giving up 343 yards to Matt Ryan. The Falcons run game was also able to make an impact. They've given up 73 points in the last two games after looking like they were working themselves into shape. Before this two-game slide, they had been giving up very little and were making a lot of positive plays. At their best, they get turnovers and play with a lot of energy. At their worst, they look like they're chasing their tails. Simply put, if the flat Chicago offense we've seen a lot of this season shows up at Raymond James on Sunday, this defense should thrive. If the one we saw against the Vikings materializes, it could be a different story. At least they get a long week to get it right.
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Tampa's offense is not a very consistent one. Jameis Winston threw three TDs against the Falcons and Mike Evans caught two TDs on 150 yards receiving. Both ended up banged-up by the end of the game, with Evans being treated for a concussion and Winston hurting his ankle. Each are listed as day-to-day. Mike Glennon came in and finished up the game, going 10-for-11 with a TD. The offense could really use a healthy Doug Martin (questionable), as his absence has left the ground-game really dicey and a one-dimensional Tampa offense has a way of not taking flight.
The feeling on the part of a lot of bettors is that Chicago turned a corner with their highly-visible MNF win over the Vikings. Then again, every NFL team is going to have a one-week window where they look good. Chicago is far from being a bankable commodity on the basis of that win. A good sign perhaps, but that's about it. On paper, you can make a good case for Tampa, with a defense on par with Chicago's and an offense with a more explosive aerial attack. I just think that the better-rounded Chicago offense is in a better position to thrive this week.
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