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Thursday Night Football: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Chicago Bears Prediction and Preview

Thursday Night Football: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Chicago Bears Prediction and Preview

Thursday Night Football: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Chicago Bears Prediction and Preview

Week 5 of the 2020 NFL season begins with a nationally televised "Thursday Night Football" matchup between two former division foes. The Chicago Bears (3-1) will renew their rivalry with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) at Soldier Field.

The Bears are coming off a tough loss to the Colts that knocked them from the ranks of the unbeaten last Sunday. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat the upstart Chargers at home. Can Chicago bounce back on a short week? Or will the Bucs continue to assert themselves as postseason contenders?

Thursday Night Football: Tampa Bay at Chicago

Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 8 at 8:20 p.m. ET

TV: FOX/NFL Network

Spread: Buccaneers -3.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Undefeated no more

The Bears picked up their first loss of the '20 campaign against the Colts last week. They were outplayed and outcoached on both sides of the ball and looked nothing like the team that started 3-0. The Bears were held to just 11 points (eight of which came in the fourth quarter), only gained 277 yards (just 28 rushing yards, 1.8 ypc), and remained scoreless in the third quarter. New starter Nick Foles (26-of-42, 249 yards, TD, INT, sacked once, 76.4 passer rating) was unable to recapture the magic that he had coming off the bench in Atlanta.

The Colts' top-ranked defense ultimately held the Bears' offense at bay with speed and fierce tackling. Head coach Matt Nagy struggled to make adjustments when needed. The one bright spot was Allen Robinson II (7 catches, 101 yards, TD) reaching 5,000 career receiving yards. The Bears' defense didn't fare much better, as this unit, so far, is a far cry from the top-10 defense we saw in 2018 and '19. They gave up 19 points and 293 yards to the Colts and failed to make life hard on Philip Rivers (16-of-29, 190 yards, TD, 86.9 rating) by collecting only one sack (Brent Urban) and no turnovers.

Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn are still waiting for their breakout moments after combining for just three tackles against Indianapolis. While this was just the Bears' first loss of the season, the Colts exposed flaws on both sides of the ball. And now they need to get it together on just three days' notice as they must now face a red-hot Tampa Bay team that means business.

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2. Rebounding Buccaneers

Tampa Bay started the season with a loss in New Orleans, a game with mistakes on both sides of the ball. Tom Brady and the offense didn't find their stride until the second half that day, and the defense allowed both Drew Brees (two touchdown passes) and Alvin Kamara (two total touchdowns) to make big plays against it. The Buccaneers have certainly learned from Week 1, as they've won their last three games and outscored opponents 97-58 in the process.

It wasn't easy last week against the Chargers, however. Tampa Bay needed a 24-7 second-half rally to overcome a 10-point halftime deficit to outlast Los Angeles, 38-31. Brady put together this best game in Bucs uniform, completing 30-of-46 passes for 369 yards and five touchdowns. Yes, he's thrown four interceptions already (two of which have been returned for touchdowns by the defense), but his 11 touchdown passes have him tied for fourth in the league, and most importantly, Tampa Bay is 3-1.

Brady has been supported on the ground by the tandem of Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette, who have combined for 376 rushing yards and three touchdowns through four games. However, injuries continue to be a major issue. Fournette missed last week because of an ankle injury, while Pro Bowl wide receiver Chris Godwin has missed two games because of a concussion and now a hamstring injury. Additionally, tight end O.J. Howard, who is third on the team in receiving (146 yards) and second with two touchdown catches, is out for the rest of the season after tearing his Achilles in the win over the Chargers.

The Bucs' defense hasn't been too shabby either, as they rank fourth in total defense (312.0 ypg), tied for eighth in scoring defense (23.0 ppg), and are second against the run (64.3 ypg). They're also third in the league in sacks (14) and second in takeaways (8). The Bears will have their hands full on Thursday night.

3. Tom Brady vs. Chicago

The man labeled as the G.O.A.T. is 5-0 against the Bears from his 20-year run in New England. In these games, Brady has completed 70.3 percent of his pass attempts for 1,595 yards, 14 touchdowns, just four interceptions, and he's only been sacked six times. That's good for a 109.2 passer rating. Of those five wins, two of them have taken place at Soldier Field, including his most recent matchup in 2018, a 38-31 victory in Week 7.

Final Analysis

The Bears and Buccaneers played each other twice a year in the old NFC Central division from 1978-2001. The Bears lead the all-time series 39-20, but the Bucs have a 2-1 advantage in the last three meetings. The Bears are 3-3 in their last six games against the NFC South, while Tampa Bay is 2-3 in their last five against the NFC North. The Bears have never defeated Tom Brady, the Bucs have the recent advantage in this series, they're heating up at the right time, and the Bears haven't been able to play a full four quarters of football just yet. Brady continues his perfection in the Windy City.

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Prediction: Buccaneers 24, Bears 20

— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.