Chicago Bears (5-9 SU, 7-7 ATS) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8 SU, 7-7 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date/Time: Sunday, December 27, 2015 at 1:00PM EST
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, Florida
by Scott, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CHI +3/TB -3
Over/Under Total: 45.5
The Chicago Bears come to Raymond James Stadium on Sunday to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Sunday action. Tampa coach Lovie Smith meets his old team in a battle of teams that are no longer in postseason contention, but still have some things to play for in 2015. The Bears are a disappointing 5-9 and lost their third game in a row on Sunday in a 38-17 loss at Minnesota. Meanwhile, Tampa dropped their second game in a row on Thursday night, losing 31-23 in a road loss at St. Louis. Both teams would love a win this week.
A lot of things have contributed to make this such a bad season for Chicago, even as there were many who anticipated an upsurge this season. Injuries have prevented them from establishing much continuity on either side of the ball. Theyve been exceptionally streaky this season opening with three straight losses, winning 5 of 8, then losing 3 in a row leading into this spot.
Tampa can call this a successful season in what was really a transition year with first-year quarterback Jameis Winston. They were flirting with a .500 mark for a while, but this is a team that is still a year or two off, so you cant really take them to task for looking like the work-in-progress that they are. The offense has forged an identity, but it doesnt fire every week. And a talented defense doesnt always deliver. Again, thats the nature of doing business with a young team that is still trying to figure things out.
Both teams can work on some things here. Both coaches look to be back next season and will be working on some different thingsnew packages, working with different players, and the like. Teams that are no longer playing to get into the postseason can use this time of the year to tinker with things a bit to enhance their approach for the following campaign.
There are still some things to like about Chicago this season, despite their 5-9 mark. Under first-year coach John Fox, they do have some things to build on for the future. Jay Cutler really hasnt been bad, with 3258 yards through the air. He works well with top receiver Alshon Jeffery (questionable), though losing emergent receiver Marquess Wilson for the season has hurt. Also on IR is TE Martellus Bennett. They got Matt Forte back and hes been a big help, but this was not an offense that could afford to lose a bunch of its key pieces and its really resonated badly over the past several weeks. They just havent been able to get everyone on this offense healthy at the same time.
The defense has also taken its share of lumps on the injury front. They have been able to rush the passer this season and the secondary has played well, as they are ranked the third-best pass D in the league. But it lacks a real playmaking dimension, with no defensive scores this season, along with a mere 14 turnovers on the year. Still, for all their issues, they went 7 games before last week not allowing more than 24 points. They face their second straight road game and well see what they can come up with for Sunday.
Again, Tampa is still a year away at the very least. Its hard to call into question the overall performance of Jameis Winston this season. He has overcome some serious growing pains, but still sits at 3422 yards on the season with 20 TD throws, Not that there arent things to work on. He will need to get his accuracy better and 12 picks is a little high, though he only threw five in his last ten games, which isnt all that bad.
Winston has dealt with an offense where a lot of the key guys have been injured. With playmakers like Vincent Jackson (out), Mike Evans, Charles Sims, Doug Martin, and others, this is a group to keep an eye on moving forward. And getting Austin Seferian-Jenkins back in the mix will help, too. At the same time, for this to be the leagues 22nd-ranked passing offense is a bit underachieving. They are still ranked 4th in rushing offense with a big season from Doug Martin, who is 9 yards behind Adrian Peterson for the league rushing lead at 1305 yards. Its an offense that is still in its infancy stages, not yet what it will eventually become.
Tampa has some big-time talent on the defense. They are the 11th-ranked unit in the league and are really tough in the front-seven. Levonte David is all over the field. Gerald McCoy and Jacquies Smith have been good in rushing the passer. But injuries have sidetracked this unit at times, though they have kept it together pretty well. When the offense plays better and keeps them off the field, this unit usually gets much better results. And theyve gotten a little better over the course of the season, though it didnt really show last week in Minnesota.
This is a tough road spot for the Bears in week 16 with the season a lost cause. These are the games where a team can show its mettle by coming up with the necessary motivation to perform well. And the Bears should be moderately tough, as they match up fairly well with the Bucs. Weve already seen this season how burying the Bears after a losing streak can be a mistake. Nevertheless, I see them having a tough time of it on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Ill take the Bucs.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers minus 3 points.