TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (2-1) AT CHICAGO BEARS (2-1) SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 1:00 P.M. ET SOLDIER FIELD (61,500) NETWORK TELEVISION: FOX PLAY-BY-PLAY: THOM BRENAMAN ANALYST: CHRIS SPIELMAN SIDELINE: SHANNON SPAKE BUCS RADIO: 98ROCK, FLAGSHIP STATION (WXTB-97.9 FM) PLAY-BY-PLAY: GENE DECKERHOFF ANALYST: DAVE MOORE SIDELINE: T.J. RIVES LAST GAME: TAMPA BAY LOST VS. PITTSBURGH, 30-27; CHICAGO WON AT ARIZONA, 16-14
PewterReport.com Publisher and Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
For the first time all season, Tampa Bay’s secondary won’t be under assault every down. After playing two future Hall of Famers in Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger and Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, the Bucs will face a second-year quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky, who is learning his second offense in as many years. The game plan won’t call for Trubisky to throw the ball 50 times as can’t shoulder the load on offense yet. So the Bears will look to achieve balance on offense by running the ball with a heavy dose of Jordan Howard and Tarek Cohen and use Trubisky’s arm on play-action passes.
Tampa Bay’s depth at defensive tackle will be tested as Howard can do some damage between the tackles, but also look for the Bears to try to run the ball to the right side (the Bucs’ left side) right at undersized cornerback Brent Grimes, whose strength is not in run support. The best way for Tampa Bay to make Chicago stop running the ball is to shut down the run with gang-tackling and/or jumping out to a big lead by being efficient on offense, especially in the red zone where the team struggled in a Monday night loss to Pittsburgh.
The Bucs offense will face its biggest challenge of the year with the Bears’ front seven in their 3-4 scheme. Chicago leads the league with 14 sacks thanks in part to the trade for Pro Bowl outside linebacker Khalil Mack, who has four sacks, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, an interception and a defensive touchdown to start his tenure with the Bears. Mack has elevated his play this season and it may be too much for right tackle Demar Dotson, whose play has slipped from last year’s level, to handle. Dirk Koetter and Todd Monken will need to use a back or tight end to help chip Mack and keep him away from Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will almost undoubtedly get the start at quarterback in Chicago. But it’s not just Mack the Bucs need to worry about, as I wrote in my latest SR’s Fab 5 column. The Bears have other talented defenders up front, such as defensive end Akiem Hicks and linebackers Danny Trevathan, Leonard Floyd and first-round pick Roquan Smith.
The Bears secondary has picked off five passes to start the year, but starting cornerback Prince Amukamara is out with a hamstring, so there could be opportunities in the passing game for Fitzpatrick if he has time to throw. I expect Chicago to blitz Fitzpatrick often, and this may be the game where Tampa Bay simply has to get the ground game going to provide balance on offense and keep the Bears guessing. Some draws and screens to Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers will also be in order to take advantage of Chicago’s defense when it does blitz.
I believe the Bucs can win in the Windy City, but it’s going to be up to the Bucs offensive and defensive lines to win this game in the trenches in order to do so. I just don’t see that happening this week. Tampa Bay will enter the bye week 2-2.
PewterReport.com Editor & Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
With the bye week looming at the quarter mark of the season, the Bucs would love nothing more than to be 3-1 when 4:00 p.m. rolls around on Sunday afternoon. And they should be.
The Bucs offense is good. Really good. So is the Bears defense as well. But a good offense should beat a good defense most of the time in the modern NFL, and if Ryan Fitzpatrick can avoid a three-interception game in Chicago, the Bucs offense should be able to outscore the Bears’ mediocre offense. Yes, the Bears will try to run the ball, and have two talented backs to do that in Jordan Howard and Tarek Cohen, but they haven’t been able to consistently dominate and take over a game running the football yet this season. And second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky doesn’t scare me as he has yet to master Matt Nagy’s offense and has two touchdowns and three interceptions on the season.
The Bears will try to limit the Bucs’ offensive possessions and eliminate the explosiveness we’ve seen from Tampa Bay over the first three weeks with a clock-chewing ground attack. Smart move. So it will be imperative that the Bucs defense gets off the field and either create takeaways or three-and-outs. Tampa Bay can’t allow Chicago to go on 6-8 minute drives consistently in this game. A few three-and-outs, then a few quick-strike Bucs drives and Tampa Bay can build a lead and hang on to it. Trubisky is no Drew Brees, so a two touchdown lead will be safe.
The Bucs take a win a Chicago, move to 3-1 and go and celebrate with a few days off during the bye week.
Cook’s Score Prediction: Bucs 28, Bears 17 Cook’s Pick to Click: WR Mike Evans
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Trevor Sikkema
If you ask me, this game will tell the tale of the season. It has many layers that will likely determine future outcomes and decisions.
For one, we get to see how this offensive line adjusts once again to a 3-4 defensive front. The Bucs offensive line struggled with their chemistry last week when the Steelers got creative with the spacing on their defensive line, and this week we get to see whether or not the Bucs offensive line really had what it took to block the Steelers up front and just didn’t have the chemistry that night, or if this is something that is going to be a problem as the season goes on.
Next we’ll once again get to see how the Bucs defense can hold up against a creative offense. The Bears are based much more around their rushing attack than the previous teams Tampa Bay has played, but head coach Matt Nagy is creative nonetheless. The Bucs defense struggled with communication last week, and if miscommunication continue this week, it will be obvious.
This game also will have a big impact on what happens with the starting quarterback position moving forward. Who starts after the Bye Week? How long does Fitzpatrick have control? This week will have a big impact on that future decision.
Ultimately, I think the Bucs offense will be too much for a beat up Bears defense. I’m looking at things from “glass half full” perspective, and because of that, I have to think that the Bucs offense will be too much for the Bear to keep up with — after all, a perfect offense beats a perfect defense.
Sikkema’s Score Prediction: Bucs 28, Bears 24 Sikkema’s Pick to Click: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
PewterReport.com Intern Matt Matera
I’ll put it simply this way. I have concerns about how Tampa Bay will stop Chicago’s pass rush, as the Bears lead the league with 14 sacks. We saw Ryan Fitzpatrick get sacked three times last week with the Steelers blitzing plenty of times. The Bears run a similar 3-4 defense that is perhaps more dangerous than Pittsburgh’s up front.
With that said, the Bucs can attack a team in so many different ways. Fitzpatrick is looking to rebound from a game where he threw three costly interceptions. The Bucs have become one dimensional, hardly running the ball at all, which probably won’t change, but they can put up at least 20 points. I do worry that their lack of running success catches up to them. It’s hard enough to stop the Bears pass rush, it’s made that much worse when they know you are going to pass it because you can’t run.
As bad as the Bucs defense has been, they are in luck facing the Bears offense. Chicago has put up no more than 24 points in any this season, and that highest score came with a pick-six by the defense. I don’t worry about the Bears offense at all. In fact, I expect the Bucs to build upon their second half performance of last week and limit the opportunities for Chicago. This should be a high confidence boost for all their young talent in the secondary.
The key to winning this game is limiting turnovers. The Bucs have shot themselves in the foot with turnovers in consecutive weeks while the Bears have won their last two because the defense was able to generate them. If the Bucs win the turnover battle, they should win this game, no matter who is the quarterback.
Matera’s Score Prediction:Bucs 23, Bears 17 Matera’s Pick-to-Click:WR Chris Godwin
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at email@example.com
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