Bears-Buccaneers prop picks (10.23.11)

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The protection for Jay Cutler has slightly improved thanks to more blockers kept in on passing downs.
The protection for Jay Cutler has slightly improved thanks to more blockers kept in on passing downs.

Here is a look at hypothetical propositional wagers between the Bears and Buccaneers.

First team to score

Bears. In the last five games, the Buccaneers have managed just nine points — three field goals — in first quarters. They definitely have not been an early-scoring team, typically waiting until the second half to make their move. I think the Bears, like last week, will jump out early and get on the scoreboard first.

First Bears player to score

Matt Forte. The Buccaneers have allowed five rushing touchdowns this season, not an obscene amount by any stretch but it ties them for 10th-most in the league and just three less than the league high. I feel a strong game from Forte is in the cards and the Bears need to get him in the end zone.

First Bears player to catch a pass

Devin Hester. Assuming he plays, of course, Hester should be integrated into the offense right away. Roy Williams caught the first pass last game and, apparently, he also was the intended target on the Hester touchdown pass but Cutler instead took a shot downfield. But I think the Bears mix it up this week and try a quick strike to Hester.

Bears player to catch most passes

Matt Forte. Forte led the Bears in receptions in five of the six games this season, so the smart money is on him to continue that trend. However, if the Bears continue their newfound max protection and allow Cutler more time to look down the field, we could see some receivers step up. Earl Bennett is reportedly not yet ready to return to game action, so I like Hester’s chances to lead the receivers in catches.

More passing yards – Jay Cutler or Josh Freeman

Josh Freeman. Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman is averaging less than three yards per game fewer than Cutler, so this could be a tight matchup between the two. The Bears have had good offensive balance in their last three games and I consider that to be a trend now. Obviously the team that is behind will likely throw more, so I’d like to think that Freeman will end up with more passing yards in this one.

More touchdown passes or interceptions by Jay Cutler

Touchdowns. Cutler has not thrown an interception since the Panthers game three weeks ago and he has taken good care of the ball all season as he currently sits 9th in the league in fewest interceptions with just four. Against the Buccaneers, who have given up 10 passing touchdowns, sixth-most in the league, and have intercepted just five passes, Cutler should finish with a plus-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Jay Cutler sacks

2. The offensive line has done a better job protecting Cutler lately and the offense has kept more players in to block for him. The Buccaneers also have just 10 sacks this season, ninth-fewest in the league. Cutler should stay upright a lot in this one.

More rushing yards – Bears or Buccaneers

Bears. If the Bears defense puts forth the effort this week that helped them hold Adrian Peterson to 39 rushing yards last week, this should be an advantage for the Bears run game. Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount is likely out for the game, and although Earnest Graham played well in his stead last week, he’s no Forte.

Total combined rushing and receiving yards by Matt Forte

135. I was two yards off my prediction last week, which is probably as close as I’m going to get all year. The Bucs are yielding 114.5 rushing yards per game and Forte is averaging 151.3 total yards per game. I think he’ll top 80 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards.

Team to win the turnover battle

Bears. The Buccaneers were fortunate to beat the Saints last week because New Orleans was careless with the football. I think the Bears will take better care of the ball, as they have done all season, and win the turnover battle. Freeman has thrown six picks, eighth-most in the league.

Total points scored

44. Games played in London have generally been low-scoring due to weather conditions and, perhaps, the struggle for players to adapt to the time difference and the disruption in their schedules. But I think these teams should be able to put up a fair amount of points.

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