Bucs to plunder the spoils at Wembley
Chicago Bears @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Sunday 18:00 live on Sky Sports 3
The NFL is back in Britain for the fifth consecutive season as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers return to Wembley to take on the Chicago Bears. The NFL has struggled to get some of its marquee teams to travel to London as is shown by the fact for the first time 2 teams over .500 will be on display at Wembley.
With the news that the NFL has signed a deal to continue to stage games in London up to 2016 the fantastic spectacle of the NFL international series is here to stay with the added prospect of multiple games and maybe even a permanent franchise. So what do we have in store this year?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Evens) have been here before and think they have learned some of their lessons from their last appearance, a 35-7 blowout loss against the New England Patriots. The main one is their preparation - in 2009 they treated it like any other road game by leaving on the Friday and consequently struggled with tiredness and jet lag. This season they arrived on Tuesday and have adjusted and is one of the reason's I'm tipping the Bucc's to win.
The Buccaneers are the designated "home" team for the fixture although they will find little home comfort away from the Raymond James Stadium, especially with the Bears being a more popular team in the UK and most likely better supported despite the Buccaneers having visited these shore's before.
The Buccaneers find themselves 1 point outsiders on the spread at 10/11 however I see them as better than the Bears and would have them down to win a close contest by 1-6 points (available at 18/5). The Buccaneers from a betting perspective have been frustratingly inconsistent as they followed up a 48-3 hammering in San Francisco by getting the better of NFC South rivals New Orleans 26-20.
On the basis of stats then it's difficult to see just how the Bucc's are 4-2. They have been averaging less than 19 points a game and have the 27th best defence but they find ways to hang in and win games and that's a huge credit to their team spirit - one thing that can't be said about their opponents this year. The spirit is down to the way this team has been built together but the inexperience of them shows at times, the star of the team is undoubtedly Josh Freeman, the former first round pick made his debut here in 2009 and has seen his stature rocket - we have specials on his to score a rushing TD (4/1) and also have his 25/1 to score the first touchdown and both are very plausible. They will continue to be without top rusher LeGarrette Blount but Earnest Graham was decent in his place and is available at 6/1 for first TD.
On the "away" side of things is the Chicago Bears (5/6) whose preparation has been awful, especially compare to the Bucc's. The team arrived in the UK on Friday (as did the Bucc's in 2009 and the Bronco's in 2010 - both lost) and there is continuing talk of internal problems between players and management that is affecting morale.
The Bears got back to being a .500 team by embarrassing the Vikings last Sunday by a score of 39-10, on paper a good victory but the Vikings weren't a patch on the team that beat the Cardinal's the previous week, however you can only beat what's in front of you!
The Bears have a bona fide superstar in their ranks in Matt Forde and a potential second in Jay Cutler who is a bit of an enigma that can blow hot or cold on any given night. He's been in decent form of late and is riding a streak of 74 passes without an interception, however his line have failed to protect him at time and as a result the oft sacked star can go awol in games.
The Bears can boast a balanced offense that if given opportunities, as was the case against the Vikings, they can run up a big score. The offensive playbook revolves around Matt Forde (11/2 first TD) but Marion Barber (12/1 first TD) and Devin Hester (12/1 first TD) are perfectly capable of pointing some points on the board. If you fancy the Bears to run up a score as they did last week.
We have an industry best 74 markets on offer for this match-up so whether you're looking for a bet on the money line, the spread or something a little different like our range of NFL London specials then we're bound to have something for you!
My prediction is that the young Buccaneers defence can hold firm enough to take the victory in a close low scoring encounter that turns out to be the best spectacle we've had in the UK.
Buccaneers @ Evens - Can take advantage of a tired and in fighting Bears team
Buccaneers 1-6 @ 18/5 - As above
Devin Hester first TD @ 12/1 - Was impressive against Viking with a 48-yard TD pass
"Forteress Wembley" @11/4 - One of our specials, the balanced attack of the Bears will help their star, Matt Forte, get over 80 rushing yard and over 50 receiving yards.