Yeah, I have no idea how good/bad/strange my English English is, since, after all, we speak American around here. Nationalism aside, Sunday's decimation of the Minnesota Vikings was all that we could have expected out of the Bears - good running game, quick early strikes, a defense that smothered Adrian Peterson and, later, Donovan McNabb, and the Ridiculous One.
However, the Vikings aren't on the Bears' schedule every week, and this week, the Bears fly to London to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who some might consider to be a step up from the Vikings. Follow me past the jump and let's take a look at the Bears' next opponent...
What'd They Do Last Year: 10-6, Finished 3rd in the NFC South, narrowly missing the playoffs.
So Far This Year: Last week, the Buccaneers took down the New Orleans Saints 26-20 to push themselves to 4-2 and a tie for first in the NFC South.
When Last We Met: The last time these two teams faced off was in Week 3 of 2008, when the Bucs took down the Bears at Soldier Field in overtime, 27-24. Gaines Adams had an interception return for a touchdown and the Bucs scored ten points in the fourth quarter to erase the deficit and send the game to overtime.
The Tampa Bay offense is led by Josh Freeman, one-time and still current media darling, who while his numbers have been similar to last season's in yardage, his rating is significantly down from last year's 95.9 to this year's 78.2, and his six interceptions match his entire total from last season. The Bucs use a myriad of short throws to get the ball into the hands of Earnest Graham, Kellen Winslow Jr, and Mike Williams, with the occasional deep ball to Preston Parker and Arrelious Benn. LeGarrette Blount sat out with a knee injury last week and could still be out this week, but is the leading rusher on the team with 77 attempts for 328 yards and 3 TDs. Graham will take the majority of the carries if that's the case - so far he's only had 35 carries, but he's had a 5.5 YPC on those carries, and as a receiver out of the backfield has a 6.6 yards per reception on 25 receptions.
The Bucs have a highly drafted front four, but they aren't really a sack-hungry bunch. For being the namesake of the "Tampa 2," the organization doesn't run that defense much anymore - instead, it's a more aggressive man-up defense that isn't afraid to jam receivers and play press coverage. If the Bears' receivers (Knox!) are bigger and stronger as they worked to be (Knox!), now would be a good time to be able to break a jam at the line.
If the Bears do this...
If the pass protection is similar to last week, Cutler could have a big day, but the receivers need to play well against a stronger secondary than Minnesota's. It's a defense that's been fairly gashed by both the run and pass (slightly more against the pass), but any defense looks better when it gets pressure. If the Bucs get pressure like the Vikings could not, the offense could struggle, but if the protection is there and the receivers get off the line, the offense could move quickly.
If the Bucs do this...
LeGarrette Blount, if healthy, is a good strong running back, the kind the Bears struggled with this year, but the Bears did just hold down Adrian Peterson. So the attention turns to Arrelious Benn, Mike Williams and Kellen Winslow Jr. The Bears have had a problem stopping tight ends all year, and Winslow leads the Bucs in receptions and yards, though he has no touchdowns on the year. If Winslow gets involved in the passing game, that could open things up for the other receivers and the Graham/Blount rushing team.
The Bucs lose a home game in this, but they can push to 5-2 and stay in a tie for first. The Bears, meanwhile, could go to 4-3, but unlike last year, they now have an undefeated Packers team and a one-loss Lions team in front of them in the standings. It'll take some work and defeating a tough opponent to keep pace in an insanely difficult division, but it should be a good test as far as where the Bears really are as a team. The Bucs aren't an elite team like the Packers and they aren't miserable like the Vikings, but they are a good, solid team that should be a good measuring stick. The line should be able to minimize the Bucs' D-line, which has all of ten sacks on the season, and if they do, there might be signs of actual progress on the line.