Bring on the Creamsicles
Why is it that when a team is great on offense and crappy on defense, mainstream pundits need to see that team battered into submission before acknowledging this weakness, but if a team plays great defense and struggles on offense, they're immediately demoted. The Colts were clearly worse defensively than the Bears were on offense for most of this year. But everyone labeled the Bears pretenders and the Colts contenders. This is all by way of saying that the Bears are the top team in football right now, although it's a virtual tie with Baltimore. Each team is great on D, and just average on offense. The Chargers, who are closer to being number two than number four in my mind, are great on offense and just average on defense. Jacksonville at number four, is closer to three than five, and they too are great on one side of the ball -- defense -- and average on the other. Note that these top four teams are great on one side of the ball and average on the other. Indianapolis, Cincinatti and New Orleans are overrated right now because they're great on offese. But these team don't belong in anyone's top five because they're terrible on defense. Dallas and New England are average or better on both sides of the ball, but can't dominate on either side.
My point is that the top team in football, or at the very least, one of the top four teams, is playing one of the bottom three. The only thing keeping the Bucs out of the basement on the offensive side of the ball is the Raiders, who are historically inept on offense. And the Bucs' vaunted defense is only average this year. And yet, this game may be closer than many expect.
When the Bears have the ball, they'll be relying principally on a top-10 rushing attack. But the Bucs have a top-10 rush defense. Where the Bucs defense falters is against the pass, where they rank 28th. Might the Bears impose their will running the ball? Sure. Might the Bears' 19th ranked passing attack take advantage of the Bucs' weakness? Sure. But the Bears have the least consistent offense in football. If they play as well as they have in their best games, they'll kill the Bucs, but if the Bears offense plays as poorly as it has in its worst games, this will be a low scoring slugfest.
The one thing the Bears don't really have to worry about is the Bucs scoring on them. The Bears have the top pass defense in football, and for all the angst about the run defense, the Bears are still the 7th most efficient team in the league at stopping the run. Ah, you say, but that includes games before Mike Brown and Tommie Harris got hurt. But the Bears have one of the smaller variations in all of football between their best defensive effort and their worst this year. Even post injuries, the Bears have remained consistently excellent on defense. And, as mentioned, the Bucs are terrible with the ball. They're 28th running the ball, and that's their strength. They have the 31st ranked passing attack.
I'm intentionally ignoring the Tank Johnson issue for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that there is no reason yet to believe that this will affect the team on the field this Sunday. But with or without Johnson, the Bucs won't score much. So I offer two possible scores: 34-3 if the Bears offense plays well, or 10-3 if they don't. It's never something inbetween with this crew.