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Bears vs. Buccaneers: A Comprehensive Guide

Take a dive into the stats, betting lines, and matchup analysis before the Bears vs. Buccaneers Week 7 meeting in Tampa.

Chicago Bears (3-3) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-1). 3:25pm CST, Sunday, October 24th at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL.

Bears vs. Buccaneers will kick off at 3:05 p.m. CDT Sunday in Tampa, FL. 

These are the thoughts of a broken fan. As we all know, us Bears fans go through a bi-annual ritual of fruitless hope. Twice a year, no matter the circumstances, we get high on a glimmer of hope that the Bears might actually be able to beat that bad man in Green Bay. There are always reasons to convince ourselves that this game is the one. The one that turns it all around, changes the tides. Make the Jeopardy host gig look a lot better to Rodgers than playing football. Well, we are still waiting. The Bears will have at least one more chance in December. As far as I am concerned, Aaron Rodgers can’t get out of Green Bay fast enough.

“Let’s face it, he’s not totally wrong. It’s on us to change that narrative moving forward.”

– Bears TE Cole Kmet on Aaron Rodgers

I apologize, I am a little depressed, a little pissed off, and a little on edge after last week. Moving on, the idea that the Bears could be competitive in this game is not THAT far outside of reason. So long as Justin Fields plays well, I will consider this one a win. Here is a bold prediction: Eddie Jackson gets an interception. Yeah, I know, you’ve heard that bold prediction before. But it’s got to happen eventually, right?

Bears vs Buccaneers History

The Bears and Buccaneers first faced off in 1977 in Tampa, FL. Since then, these two franchises have met a grand total of 60 times. For many years, these two teams were division rivals in the NFC Central, also known as the “Black and Blue Division”. The last time they clashed was just last season when the Bears shocked the Buccaneers on national television. This Sunday’s game will mark the 61st matchup between the Bears and Buccaneers. During that time, the Bears are 40-20 against the Buccaneers. When playing in Tampa, the Bears are 17-14. 

The Buccaneers are coached by Bruce Arians, who has some history himself with the Bears. Arians was not hired to be the Bears head coach because he wanted to bring Todd Bowles on as his defensive coordinator rather than retain Rod Marinelli. That is the same Todd Bowles who is the Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers defensive coordinator. 

“I thought the interview was fantastic. I really was waiting for a call to tell me I had the job. Now, every time I look at the Weather Channel, I’m glad I didn’t. Especially in January.”

– Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians

That decision led the charter franchise to Marc Trestman. The logic was sound (not really), as Marinelli decided he didn’t want to be an assistant under Trestman, choosing to leave anyway. Also, speaking of Bowles, there were rumors that he might be named Bears head coach over John Fox in 2015. Then there were rumors that he might be the Bears DC after Fangio left for Denver. But let’s just move on.

Bears vs Buccaneers Betting Lines

Betting odds for Bears, as well as multiple handicapping models for comparison.

Moneyline: +530
Spread: +13
Model 1: +11.7
Model 2: +9.9
PFF: +13.2
538 QB Adjusted: +12
538 Non-QB Adjusted: +10
Betting odds for Bears vs Buccaneers, as well as multiple handicapping models for comparison

In the above table, I have noted the spread and the projected spreads according to my two models, PFF, and 538’s two models for Bears vs. Buccaneers. Why use two models from one source? Because I like to use multiple models to crosscheck each other. The more models that say something is a good bet, the more assurances you get. That’s what all of us gamblers want, assurances.

Bears vs Buccaneers Head Coaches Cover History

Head Coach Records against the spread in similar situations (greater than 7-point spread).

Nagy as a greater than 7 point road dog since 2019:

ATS: 0-4
Moneyline: 0-4
Over: 2-2

Arians as a greater than 7 point home favorite since 2019:

ATS: 4-2
Moneyline: 6-0
Over: 6-0
Head Coach Records against the spread in similar situations (greater than 7 point favorite/dog)

Since 2019, Matt Nagy has been a seven or more-point road dog four times, posting a record ATS of 0-4. Additionally, Nagy is 0-4 on the money line (Bears to win straight up) in these situations, while he is 2-2 on the over.

Since becoming the Buccaneers head coach, Bruce Arians has been a seven or more-point home favorite six times, posting a record ATS of 4-2. Additionally, Arians is 6-0 on the money line (Buccaneers to win straight up) in these situations, while he is 6-0 on the over. 

Bears vs Buccaneers Team Stats

Bears offense ranks 28th. 31st in passing, and 12th in rushing.

Bucs defense ranks 16th. 20th in passing, and 2nd in rushing.

Bucs offense ranks #1. 4th in passing, and 3rd in rushing.

Bears defense ranks 9th. 10th in passing, and 21st in rushing.
Bears vs Buccaneers NFL Ranks

The Buccaneers’ offense is the top ranked unit in the NFL. Their total offense ranks 1st in the NFL using the average of DVOA, EPA per Play, and success rate. They have the 6th ranked rushing offense, on average. Through the air, they have an average rank of first.

The Bears defense ranks ninth in the NFL using the same metrics for the other side of the ball. Against the pass, they have an average rank of tenth. However, their defense ranks 21st against the run. 

The Bears offense comes in at 28th, using those same metrics. The Bears offense shows solid metrics for the ground game, ranking 12th across the three sources. However, their passing attack ranks 31st. Again, I ask you, please save us Justin Fields.

Meanwhile, the Buccaneers defense ranks 16th in the NFL. Tampa Bay’s defense has been excellent against the run, ranking 2nd in the NFL. On the other hand, their pass defense ranks 20th in the NFL, on average.

Buccaneers Scouting Report

Offensive Overview

Play-Caller: Byron Leftwich

Personnel Groupings: RB-TE 

  • 1-1 [3WR]: 69%
  • 1-2 [2WR]: 19%
  • 1-3 [1WR]: 5% 

3rd Down Conversion Rate: 49.4% (3rd)

Red Zone TD Conversion Rate: 64.3% (12th)

Explosive Play / Pass / Run Rate: 10% (17th) / 11% (7th) / 7% (31st)

The Buccaneers offense has been pure gold so far in 2021. They have scored at least 28 points in four of their six games, and average north of 400 yards per game. This is largely due to Tom Brady gaining a full grasp of Bruce Arians’ offense, which he was still grasping at this time a year ago. Tampa boasts one of the best offensive lines in the NFL when it comes to pass protection. Moreover, their WR room is ridiculous with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown. Additionally, the TE room is multiple players deep, as is the RB position. When you center all of that around Father Time himself (Tom Brady), you have a squad. 

So, what is the Buccaneers offense? Bruce Arians is widely known for his love of the deep ball. This is because his offenses have always been heavily air yards oriented by design. However, the Buccaneers have shown significant improvement in yards after catch in 2021 due to improvement in screen execution and usage. They will run screens to RBs or WRs, and out of bunch sets or spread formations. While the downfield passing attack is still Tampa’s bread and butter, the screen game has made them more well rounded. Additionally, they may disguise screens within deep concepts that Arians is known for. 

“No risk it, no biscuit.”

– Buccaneers HC Bruce Arians motto

Leonard Fournette has emerged as a serviceable RB in the passing game in 2021. Despite a history of being a pass game liability, through six games we have seen Fournette run routes from out wide, out of the backfield, and stay in for pass pro. Clearly, the former first-round pick really bought into improving in the pass game, and it has paid off for him. 

Ultimately, this offense comes down to Brady’s execution and the talent around him. The talent is 100% there and Brady is the best processor at the QB position. Due to many years of experience and success, Brady has become an expert at efficiently progressing through his reads. He knows when to change the progressions, and when he has the ability to hit the “alert” for the home run play. 

Positional Breakdown

Tom Brady is the #1 QB in the NFL. Bucs have three of the top 30 WRs in the NFL, a top 15 TE, #2 offensive line, and #10 RB.
Buccaneers Offensive Starters and NFL Ranks among qualifying starters

The “Pos. Rank” uses multiple position specific stats to generate a relative ranking for each player at their position. The percentile is simply a representation of their rank. For example, Tom Brady ranks first out of 32 qualifying QBs. This results in a percentile of 97% (MATH = 1 – (1/32)). In the right-most column, you can see the stats used to generate the ranking.

Offensive Line stats represent the entire unit, rather than any individual player. I believe that it is just too subjective of a stat to place statistical blame on individuals without knowing their assignments.

Defensive Overview

DC: Todd Bowles

Base: 3-4

Blitz %: 39% (1st)

3rd Down Conversion Rate: 43.8% (24th)

Red Zone TD Conversion Rate: 65% (18th)

Todd Bowles runs a fun defense. It is fun because they sit at the top of the league in blitz rate. In other words, this is a hyper-aggressive front. Starting with the front seven, they boast an immensely talented group. They have been the top ranked run defense in the NFL for the past two seasons. Incredibly, they are on pace to allow only 778 rush yards in a 17-game season. The NFL record is 970 yards, set by the 2001 Ravens in a 16-game season. All this despite the fact that they have dealt with injuries to key players in the front seven, with Lavonte David and Jason Pierre-Paul both having missed time. It is unclear whether they will be available Sunday. 

On the back end, the Buccaneers pass defense has been another story. Their top two CBs are currently on injured reserve (Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting). Due to the injuries, the Buccaneers have been forced to patch wounds with multiple backup CBs made up of Ross Cockrell, Dee Delaney, Richard Sherman, and Pierre Desir. Sherman and Desir were recently signed off the street. 

In coverage, the Buccaneers prefer to play a zone heavy system (cover 3 and cover 4) with press man curveballs sprinkled in. Above all else, they aim to limit big plays and yards after the catch. The pass rush is aided by creative blitz packages. The aim is to force passes underneath, because they do not think you can beat their offense with the short game. Eventually, an errant throw into a closed off zone will occur. 

Despite the injuries, the pass coverage has still been close to league average overall. They have allowed a fair amount of volume, but their rate stats tell a different story. Since most teams don’t try to establish the run against Tampa, they see more pass attempts than most teams. 

Positional Breakdown

Strength is on the defensive line. Linebackers rank around the 50th percentile, but are better than their stats. Secondary does not rank in top half of the NFL outside of Jamal Dean at CB, who ranks 2nd among 97 CBs.
Buccaneers Defensive Starters and NFL Ranks among qualifying starters

The “Pos. Rank” uses multiple position specific stats to generate a relative ranking for each player at their position. The percentile is simply a representation of their rank. For example, Shaquil Barrett Ranks ninth out of 73 qualifying EDGE players. This results in a percentile of 88% (MATH = 1 – (9/73)). In the right-most column, you can see the stats used to generate the ranking.

Bears Scouting Report

Offensive Overview

Play-Caller: Bill Lazor / Matt Nagy

Personnel Groupings: RB-TE 

  • 1-1 [3WR]: 65%
  • 1-2 [2WR]: 22%
  • 1-3 [1WR]: 5%

3rd Down Conversion Rate: 33.3% (28th)

Red Zone TD Conversion Rate: 66.7% (11th)

Explosive Play / Pass / Run Rate: 9% (27th) / 5% (32nd) / 12% (12th)

To be blunt, I am just tired of this. I am tired of seeing three of four routes being hitch routes just short of the sticks. I’m also tired of wondering whether these players would produce more in a better scheme. Moreso, I am sick and tired of the “Nagy is still calling plays” debate. But most of all, I am tired of the reasoning and excuses for this offense. Everything in life happens for a reason. Just because it can be explained does not mean it should be acceptable. What is the why behind it? Maybe it is on the coaching. Deep down, we all know that excuses are like assholes. They all stink and everyone has one. For the last three seasons, this offense has been closer to a rest stop bathroom stall than an NFL offense. 

Now that I have vented some frustration, we can get down to the facts. Currently, the Bears offense reminds me of the Lovie Smith days. In other words, they come off the bus running. Since Montgomery went down, they have relied heavily on outside zone runs, and done well with them. This is because Damien Williams and Khalil Herbert are solid outside zone half backs, and the offensive line has managed to open up the run game. Both players run with good juice, efficient cutbacks, and hit their hole with determination. Although, going up against a Tampa defense that excels at stopping the run could limit their upside.

“Scoring, for sure, is an emphasis…We’re not scoring enough…You need to score more — we understand that.”

– Bears HC Matt Nagy throughout a recent press conference

Outside of the run game, the Bears like to line up deep shots off of the outside zone play action. Fields is an excellent thrower, but at this point in his career his processing is not great. This is okay for a rookie QB, but dangerous for a rookie behind a porous offensive line. This is why he is not asked to execute in a straight drop back passing game often. Also, the Bears have often used extra blockers in the pass game when dialing up deep shots. They set this up by bringing in extra blockers for run plays early, then running play action off a similar set later in the game. 

Positional Breakdown

No Bears offensive starter ranks above the 41st percentile for their position. The highest ranked is Darnell Mooney.
Bears Offensive Starters and NFL Ranks among qualifying starters

The “Pos. Rank” uses multiple position specific stats to generate a relative ranking for each player at their position. The percentile is simply a representation of their rank. For example, Allen Robinson ranks 54th out of 92 qualifying WRs. This results in a percentile of 41% (MATH = 1 – (54/96)). In the right-most column, you can see the stats used to generate the ranking.

Offensive Line stats represent the entire unit, rather than any individual player. I believe that it is just too subjective of a stat to place statistical blame on individuals without knowing their assignments.

Defensive Overview

DC: Sean Desai

Base: 3-4

Blitz %: 16% (29th)

3rd Down Conversion Rate: 41.9% (18th)

Red Zone TD Conversion Rate: 45% (3rd)

Sean Desai took over as defensive coordinator this season, and the returns for the first year DC have been positive. As coordinator, Desai preaches three core values:

  1. Tackling
  2. Running to the football
  3. Taking the ball away

While tackling has remained an issue on the back end, the other two values have shown themselves in games. Every good defense excels in all three of these aspects, and bad one’s struggle in at least one. The Bears still struggle in one of these areas (tackling), but there are reasons to be optimistic. There is one other notable emphasis for the defense under Desai. 

“The biggest thing is knowing where the ball is. That’s the biggest thing. Having vision on the ball. If you can’t see the ball, you can’t take the ball away. Very simply, they need to know. They need to see the ball from wherever it is, the snap, to the quarterback-running back exchange, to the quarterback dropping back at the top of the pocket to releasing it and then we’ll have a chance.”

– Bears DC Sean Desai

Desai has schemed up defensive line stunts much more this year than the Bears have in the past. Much more deception is involved in the pass rush plan than seen in previous years. He has also implemented more “simulated pressures” in order to get home. That, combined with a revived Robert Quinn, have led to the most sacks in the NFL (21). 

On the back end, the Bears primarily run coverages in variations of cover 4 and cover 6. Cover 4 is a combo scheme that employs both zone concepts and man concepts. This is a complex coverage to execute, but is more adaptable to offensive sets and concepts. Cover 6 combines aspects of the cover 2 and the cover 4 defenses. Basically, this coverage concept splits the back end into quarter-quarter-half field assignments.  

Positional Breakdown

Bears have three of the top 25 defensive lineman and EDGE players starting. Roquan SMith currently ranks as the top LB in the NFL, while Jaylon Johnson ranks as the 24th CB.
Bears Defensive Starters and NFL Ranks among qualifying starters

The “Pos. Rank” uses multiple position specific stats to generate a relative ranking for each player at their position. The percentile is simply a representation of their rank. For example, Roquan Smith ranks first out of 69 qualifying LBs. This results in a percentile of 99% (MATH = 1 – (1/69)). In the right-most column, you can see the stats used to generate the ranking.

Bears vs Buccaneers Injury Report

Bears vs Buccaneers Summary

It is hard to believe that the Bears can win this game. While the Buccaneers have a few holes here and there, they are one of the most complete teams in football. It is hard to muster much confidence in the Bears at the moment. Although, this Buccaneers team only beat the Eagles by six, the Patriots by two, and lost to the Rams by 10. But, those three games were on the road. When playing at home, they beat the Cowboys by two, beat the Falcons by 23, and beat the Dolphins by 28. 

The Bears secondary has a lot to cover this week, as Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin could be major problems while Johnson is covering Mike Evans. Chicago’s pass rush might be able to keep this within reach in the first half, but I expect the Buccaneers to really pull away late. While I hold out some hope that Fields and the Bears limited offense will be able to keep up, that is most likely just the desperate fan in me ignoring the fact that they only scored 14 points against a far inferior defense last week. Regardless, this season has always been about Justin Fields’ development, and it always will be. 

Prediction: 

Bears – 17

Buccaneers – 27

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