Welcome to the Thursday Night Football betting breakdown, where each week I’ll provide a detailed betting overview of the upcoming Thursday Night Football game utilizing moneyline, points spread and projected total odds from DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook. I’ll also highlight at least one player- or game-based prop each week that I feel has profit potential.
This Week 5 NFC battle pits a pair of 3-1 squads in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears that appear to be heading in different directions. The Bucs have rattled off three straight victories after losing to the Saints in Week 1. Meanwhile, the Bears may be the shakiest 3-1 team in the NFL. They needed a miracle 16-point fourth-quarter comeback to prevail over the Falcons in Week 3. Then, the man largely responsible for that victory, Nick Foles, was much more ineffective in a Week 4 defeat at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts.
The one wild card associated with this game as it draws nearer is the Buccaneers’ health situation. Tampa Bay has an avalanche of injuries to contend with. That’s particularly true in the pass-catching corps. None of Mike Evans (ankle), Chris Godwin (hamstring), Scotty Miller (hip/groin) or Justin Watson (chest) practiced Tuesday, while Rob Gronkowski (shoulder) was limited.
All betting takes will be classified as a “pick”, with considerations such as relevant injuries, past betting trends and recent performances of each team leading up to the game factoring in.
For more detailed information on this week’s matchup – including further game analysis, betting trends breakdown, betting tips specific to TNF, and a synopsis of the history of the line movement for the game, please see our Thursday Night Football Betting Preview over at TheLines.
TNF betting odds: Bucs at Bears
Tom Brady has naturally faced countless challenges over his 20-plus seasons. That’s included playing with makeshift receiving corps and still finding ample success. This season, he’s already had to operate without the talented Chris Godwin for two games due to a concussion and a hamstring injury. The latter issue is slated to keep the Penn State product out again in Week 5. He’s also now lost athletic tight end O.J. Howard for the season due to an Achilles tear.
While there certainly a breaking point in terms of how many competent pass catchers the future Hall of Famer can thrive without, having Evans and Miller available was enough to help Brady pile up five touchdown passes against a tough Chargers defense in Week 4. The availability of both players will be key Thursday against a solid Bears defense. Tampa Bay will also be able to turn to its running game to make up for a short-handed air attack. However, they’re at less than full health there as well.
Both Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy are very iffy for this contest due to ankle injuries. The former is considered to have a slightly better chance to suit up. Nevertheless, the presence of Ronald Jones and rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn give Tampa Bay a competent duo to carry the load if necessary. Jones ran for a season-high 111 yards in Week 4 against Los Angeles while playing without Fournette and almost the entire contest without McCoy. Vaughn logged the first three carries of his career, yet it was his work through the air that made his day. The rookie had just a pair of grabs, but one went for his first career touchdown.
As alluded to earlier, the Nick Foles that broke the Falcons’ heart in Week 3 was nowhere to be found in the Week 4 loss to Indy. While he finished with a respectable 249 yards, the Bears didn’t actually score their only touchdown until there were less than two minutes remaining. Foles averaged just 5.9 yards per attempt in the contest and finished with an unsightly 42.9 QBR. One of the challenges Foles faces is that it’s essentially Allen Robinson and then plenty of uncertainty behind him in terms of the receiving corps. Even talented third-year man Anthony Miller has yet to hit any sort of stride.
David Montgomery has an unenviable challenge ahead of him against a Bucs defense surrendering an NFC-low 64.2 rushing yards per game. Foles isn’t good enough to beat Tampa Bay consistently if his offense is rendered one-dimensional, especially considering the Bucs’ ferocious pass rush (14 sacks through four games).
The Pick: Buccaneers moneyline (-250 or better)
TNF Point Spread
Brady has more weapons than Foles to work with if Evans and Miller suit up, and Tampa Bay’s defense has more than enough pass rush to disrupt Foles.
The Buccaneers are 2-2 against the spread this season, including 1-1 as a road team and 1-1 in conference games.
The Bears are 2-2 against the spread this season, including 0-2 as a home team and 2-1 (66.7 percent) in conference games.
As long as Brady has Evans and Miller at his disposal, which appears likely as of Wednesday’s final injury report, I lean toward the Bucs separating enough to cover.
The Lean: Buccaneers -3.5 or better
TNF Over/Under Total
The Over is 3-1 (75.0 percent) in Tampa Bay’s games this season, including 1-1 in its away games and 2-0 in its games against NFC opponents.
The Over is 2-2 in Chicago’s games this season, including 0-2 in its home games and 2-1 (66.7 percent) in its games against NFC opponents.
This is a particularly low total, but the Bucs’ extensive injury question marks and both squads’ solid defenses clearly factor into it. However, as long as Evans and Miller are on the field for Tampa Bay, I can see the number being exceeded, even if not by much.
The Lean: Over 43.5 points or better
Best TNF Prop Bet
David Montgomery Over 21.5 receiving yards (-115 or better)
The Buccaneers are elite against the run, as already mentioned. However, teams are finding a way around that by utilizing short passes to their backs frequently against Tampa Bay, leading to the Bucs tying the Raiders and Packers for third-most receptions (31) allowed to RBs and surrendering the fourth-most receiving yards (256) to the position as well. With Tarik Cohen (knee) out for the season, Montgomery already has a pair of three-catch tallies this season in which he’s compiled 45 and 30 receiving yards.