Ah, the old NFC Central foes. The Buccaneers didn't play the Chicago Bears last season, but had the past three years, going up to Chicago most recently in 2018. We won't go into everything that happened then, but the point is Tampa Bay will have a chance at redemption during Week Five.
The Bucs will take on the presumptive starter Nick Foles and the Bears on Thursday Night Football. It's the first of five primetime contests for the Bucs but luckily the only Thursday night game of the season.
Last year, Chicago's offense struggled in the production department. They put up just 17.5 points per game on offense. For comparison's sake, the Bucs put up 28.6 per game, ranking fourth in that category. It's the major reason the Bears decided to once again invest in the quarterback position, trading away a fourth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for Foles. General Manager Ryan Pace and Head Coach Matt Nagy had said that it will be an open competition between Foles and 2017 second-overall pick Mitch Trubisky, but many across the league are assuming the job is Foles' given Trubisky's lack of production over the past couple seasons.
The Bears downturn in production was coupled with a slight downturn on the other side of the ball, too. Defensive phenomenon Khalil Mack had his lowest sack total since his rookie season, taking down the quarterback just 8.5 times. It was down from his first year in Chicago in 2018, where he registered 12.5.
Even with the struggles of Mack, the Bears' defense did still manage to rank top 10 in every major defensive category. They allowed the fourth-fewest points per game, in fact, letting opposing teams score just 18.6 points per game. It's pretty much what saved Chicago from a losing record in 2019.
The Bears own the all-time series against the Buccaneers. The two teams who once shared the Black and Blue division have played each other 59 times, with Chicago holding a 39-20 edge in those contests. The Bucs haven't won in Soldier Field since 2008, but with Chicago's recent struggles and the Bucs splash additions this offseason, they'll be looking to change that come Week Five.
2019 Record: 8-8
Scoring Offense: 29th (17.5 points per game)
Total Offense: 29th (296.8 total yards per game)
Rushing Offense: 27th (91.1 rushing yards per game)
Passing Offense: 25th (205.7 passing yards per game)
Scoring Defense: 4th (18.6 points allowed per game)
Total Defense: 8th (324.1 total yards allowed per game)
Rushing Defense: 9th (102.0 rushing yards allowed per game)
Passing Defense: 89h (222.1 passing yards allowed per game)
Turnover Margin: T-15th (0)
The defense was by no means a slouch last season, which again, totally saved the season as a whole. Not only did it get some reinforcements in the draft, but that side of the ball also got a few key players in free agency. Chicago more or less addressed the offense in this year's draft. The Bears didn't have a first-round pick but had a total of seven (most of which were in later rounds). Four of those seven 2020 draft picks went to the offense, helping to get more weapons around Foles.
Bears' 2020 Draft Class: TE Cole Kmet, Notre Dame (Round 2, 43rd overall), CB Jaylon Johnson, Utah (Round 2, 50th overall), DE Trevis Gipson, Tulsa (Round 5, 155th overall), CB Kindle Vildor, Georgia Southern (Round 5, 163rd overall), WR Darnell Mooney, Tulane (Round 5, 173rd overall), OT Arlington Hambright, Colorado (Round 7, 226th overall), G Lachavious Simmons, Tennessee St. (Round 7, 227th overall)
The Bears seem to be stockpiling tight ends, after drafting the hometown kid in Kmet and then also getting a tight end in free agency – one Jimmy Graham, who will certainly provide a veteran presence in a room that as of now, has to be the most populated at Halas Hall.
Foles and Graham weren't the only notable additions for the Monsters of the Midway, either.
Key Veteran Additions: QB Nick Foles, TE Jimmy Graham, LB Robert Quinn, OL Germain Ifedi
Notable Departures: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, WR Taylor Gabriel, TE Trey Burton, OLB Leonard Floyd, CB Prince Amukamara, DT Nick Williams, QB Chase Daniel, OG Kyle Long (retired)
The Bears landed linebacker Robert Quinn from the Cowboys, and further bolstered their offensive line with Ifedi – but there was quite a bit of turnover with some big-time contributors departing the Windy City. The defense took the biggest hit when Clinton-Dix, Floyd and Amukamara all signed with different teams in free agency.
The offense lost one of their up-front anchors when guard Kyle Long decided to call it a career after a string of battles with various injuries. The Bucs won't see a guy that had one of his biggest career days against them in 2018 – Gabriel went seven-for-seven and 104 yards and two touchdowns when Tampa Bay visited Chicago last time. The Bears let him go and he is currently a free agent.
Though this will be the first time the Bucs will face Foles as a member of the Bears, they did well against the one-time Super Bowl Champion in Jacksonville last season when he was a member of the Jaguars. In fact, Foles only lasted a half against a Tampa Bay defense that was rolling by that point last season, recording three sacks against the signal caller before he was replaced by Gardner Minshew. Perhaps the Bears' offensive line will be able to better protect Foles. We'll find out in primetime on Thursday Night Football on October 8.