Bears, Bucs and Brits

The Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers face off in London at Wembley Stadium this weekend, in a 1:00pm ET kickoff (6:00 Greenwich Mean Time).  Both teams may be a bit jet lagged from flying to England to practice this week, and each team’s season has been just as dizzying.

The 4-2 Bucs come fresh off a 26-20 victory over the New Orleans Saints in a game in which young Josh Freeman outplayed Drew Brees.  Freeman threw for 303 yards and 2 TDs, with no picks, while the Bucs defense intercepted Brees 3 times.  That was their bounce back game after being trounced 48-3 by the 49ers the week before.

The Bears at 3-3 have struggled for consistency as well, looking strong in a dominating 39-10 win over Minnesota last week, which was their comeback game after taking a beating at the hands of the Detroit Lions the previous week on Monday Night Football, where their offensive line jumped offsides 9 times.

So which versions of these teams will show up on Sunday?  Unfortunately, it’s anyone’s guess.

Overall, the Buccaneers have been more consistent, with their only two losses coming at the hands of the Lions and 49ers, who are both at 5-1 now.  They have quality wins over the Saints and the Falcons.

The Bears have also managed to drop the Falcons, and have lost to the Saints, Packers and Lions who are a combined 15-3.

Ultimately, the Bucs have the inside track and it will come down to how effectively the Bears offensive line plays.  Over the last four games, the Bears are 2-2 and they’ve given up only 1 sack in each of their wins and 3 sacks plus numerous QB hits in each of their losses.

If the Bears can get their running game going and provide protection for Cutler, he’s as effective as anyone in the league.  And they have been doing a better job protecting him in recent weeks – his QB efficiency for the last two weeks 99.6 and 115.9 after being well below 100 for the first part of the season.  Plus the Bears have the X-factor for the game in Devin Hester, who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

We’re going with Chicago and saying that the Bears offensive line and Matt Forte does the job establishing the running game and protecting Cutler.  The Bears come back with the big win from Wembley.

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