The Bears are facing an opponent without a 2017 NFL regular season game under their belt for the second consecutive week, this time due to Hurricane Irma.
The Bears will be traveling down to Tampa for a match up against the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium at noon Sunday.
The 6 have had some upheaval but announced today that the game would be played as scheduled. No doubt that is welcome news to the thousands of Floridians that have been affected by the hurricane and will no doubt enjoy the escape sports give for a couple hours Sunday after dealing with all sorts of issues over the last 10 days.
Both teams will be looking to get their first win of the 2017 season. The Bucs for obvious reasons and the Bears because they will be wanting to get that bad taste out of their mouth after losing to the Atlanta Falcons after having four shots at stealing a win.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
SB Nation site: Bucs Nation
Record (2016): 9-7 (Second, NFC South)
Last Week: 10-0 win over Irma
Bears All-Time Record Against: 38-19
Historical Match Ups: Young fans sometimes forget that these teams were division rivals at one time, from 1977 until realignment to the familiar divisions in 2002.
Perhaps it’s because each team hasn’t been very good at the same time for very long, there aren’t a ton of memorable games.
The one game that comes to mind is the 2001 December match up between the teams, the last played as division rivals. The Bears beat the Bucs 27-3 to clinch a playoff berth.
Last Meeting: 36-10 loss in week 10 last year. I forgot about this game but that’s because I was in Mexico for a relative’s wedding. I checked the score early and it was 17-10 Bucs at the half. I checked again a little while later and it was 29-10 and then I drank so many margaritas I didn’t care.
Jay Cutler threw two picks and lost a fumble. Jordan Howard lost a fumble. Chris Conte had a pick six. All in all, a forgettable, awful game.
Injury Report: On Wednesday’s report, the Bucs listed just one player: LB Devante Bond. He was a limited participant in practice with a knee injury.
Offense: The Bucs have a downfield passing game that rivals that of the Atlanta Falcons from last week. Their passing offense ranked 16th last year in terms of yards and attempts and ranked eighth in passing touchdowns with 29. And in the offseason Tampa added DeSean Jackson to pair with Mike Evans and then drafted O.J. Howard.
Returning from last year are Evans (96 rec./1,321 yds./12 TD), TE Cameron Brate (57/660/8) and Adam Humphries (55/622/2) and now they’ve added Jackson (56/1,005/4 with Washington). That’s a lot of weapons.
On the ground, the Bucs are a different story. Last season the rushing offense ranked 24th in the league in terms of yards but seventh in carries and 29th in touchdowns. The team averaged 3.6 YPC which isn’t great.
The team’s starting running back, Doug Martin, is suspended for the team’s first three games for PEDs which means that the team will be trotting out Jacquizz Rodgers, who led the team in rushing last season (129/560/2), Charles Sims (51 carries/149 yds./1 TD) and Peyton Barber (55/223/1).
Overall the offense ranked 18th in yards and points a season ago.
Defense: In 2016 the Bucs defense ranked 15th in points allowed and 23rd in yards allowed. They ranked 22nd in both pass yards and rush yards allowed.
The secondary features last year’s No. 1 draft pick Vernon Hargraves, who tallied one interception and 10 pass deflections last season and Brent Grimes.
The front seven features stalwarts such as Kwon Alexander, Lavonte David, Gerald McCoy, Robert Ayers and Noah Spence. Those five combined for 27 sacks last season.
The defense was very good at taking the ball away, ranking third with 29 takeaways including 17 interceptions. The Bears will have to take care of the football.
Key Match Ups: Like last week, this one appears tough on paper. The Bears defense has to play tight, mistake-free defense to avoid a blown coverage like last week.
In that regard it’s going to be about Markus Cooper (or Prince Amukamara should he be healthy) vs. Mike Evans. Downfield, it’s going to be about Quintin Demps making sure everyone is in place and not letting Evans, Jackson or Howard get behind them.
Leonard Floyd needs to show up a lot more than last week and really pressure Winston into mistakes. Last year Winston had the second-most interceptions in the league. He can be turnover prone and it will be up to the front seven to force him into those errors because the secondary has not shown an ability to generate them on their own.
For the offense, it’s going to be about the receivers and tight ends getting open for Mike Glennon. The front seven of the Bucs is stout but they were susceptible against the run as opponents racked up 4.4 YPC against them last year and rushed for 15 TDs.
That should mean room for Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Speaking of Cohen, him against the athletic LBs of Tampa will be a big match up, if he can win, well, Atlanta can tell the Bucs what he’s capable of.
What to Watch For: How will Mike Glennon look against his former team? Will there be a revenge factor there?
What receivers will step up? If Markus Wheaton plays, how will he look? Can Kendall Wright, Deonte Thompson and Josh Bellamy look like they’re making strides?
What’s a good workload for Cohen? Last week he had 16 touches but it’s fair to wonder if a more ideal number is closer to a dozen. Hopefully Howard can get into more of a rhythm than last week and wear down the Bucs’ defensive line.
Key Stats: Jameis Winston has 42 turnovers in his young career; 33 INTs and nine fumbles lost.
The Bears had 11 takeaways in 2016 and have none in 2017.
Winston was sacked 35 times last season. Glennon is on pace to be sacked 64 times this season.
What do you think the Bears need to do to win Sunday? Who are you picking to win?