Each week the Pewter Reporters will give our predictions including how we think the game will play out, plus a Pick to Click, a player we think will stand out. Make sure to share your thoughts and your predictions in the comment section.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (0-0) VS. CHICAGO BEARS (0-1)
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 1:00 P.M. ET
RAYMOND JAMES STADIUM (64,428)
NETWORK TELEVISION: FOX
PLAY-BY-PLAY: DICK STOCKTON ANALYST: MARK SCHLERETH 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 BYE WEEK; CHICAGO LOST VS. ATLANTA, 23-17
PewterReport.com Publisher & Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
Will the Bucs be rested or rusty when they take the field after a Week 1 bye week? That’s the big question that we won’t know the answer to until 1:00 p.m. on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. What we do know is that running back Doug Martin begins his three-game suspension and head coach Dirk Koetter will use a committee approach with the experienced Jacquizz Rodgers seeing action on first and second downs, big back Peyton Barber getting used in short yardage and goal line situations and Charles Sims, who is in a contract year, being used in his familiar third down role as a receiver and pass protector.
Yet I expect the Bucs to come out throwing the ball to help set up the run. Look for Jameis Winston to use short passes to wide receiver Mike Evans and tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard to move the chains, in addition to a wide receiver screen pass to DeSean Jackson, who may also get an end around in the first half. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Dirk Koetter come out early with an up-tempo rhythm or perhaps even have Winston use the no-huddle to get into a groove. The Bears have a good front seven, but a suspect secondary. Evans and Jackson could have big days on the perimeter for Tampa Bay, but scoring touchdowns in the red zone is paramount. The Bucs settled for too many field goals last year and in the preseason.
On defense I think the Bucs will try to get pressure on Mike Glennon early with their front four, but defensive coordinator Mike Smith won’t hesitate to blitz linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander or even one of the team’s nickel corners from the slot to get after the Bears’ pocket passer. Expect Chicago to try to get rookie running back Tarik Cohen involved in the screen game to take advantage of the Bucs’ pass rush. David, Alexander and Tampa Bay’s secondary will have to be alert to Cohen or even Jordan Howard on the perimeter in the passing game. Stopping Howard’s runs on first and second down is critical to getting Chicago into third-and-long situations and having to rely on Glennon to beat Tampa Bay. The Bucs have more talent than the Bears do and will be energized playing at home, but this game won’t be the 36-10 rout that last year’s victory was.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Bucs win 20-16
Reynolds’ Pick-to-click: LB Lavonte David
PewterReport.com Editor & Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
More than 20 days. That is how long it has been since the Bucs starters have been on the field together. Will they be rusty? Probably. But fortunately the Bucs aren’t opening with the Patriots, instead they face a Bears team that, while they have played a game, they aren’t going to be competing for a Super Bowl title in the near future. That doesn’t mean the Buccaneers can’t be beat, however, the talent level in Tampa is much better than in the Windy City, and the Bucs should be able to prevail.
It wouldn’t shock me to see the Buccaneers offense struggle in the first half, but with temperatures expected to be in the 90’s, the Bucs will wear the Bears down in the brutal heat, especially if they can get the running game going. The Bucs don’t have to hit home run plays on every drive, just keep pounding and pounding, but protecting the football as they do it. The Bears just don’t have offensive firepower to keep up if Tampa Bay can get a two score lead. Dirk Koetter said there is really no advantage to the Bucs knowing Bears’ quarterback Mike Glennon’s tendencies, but I believe that is coach speak. It is absolutely an advantage for the Bucs and one I believe will take full advantage of. Mainly Glennon’s lack of mobility.
If the Bucs defense can shut down the Bears running game, and force Glennon to throw it, they will take the win going away in the second half.
Cook’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 30-13
Cook’s Pick-to-Click: TE Cameron Brate
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Reprter Trevor Sikkema
Did watching every other team in the NFL play football last week and not the Tampa Bay Buccaneers make you more eager for Sunday’s season opener?
Now just imagine how the players feel.
All the questions, all the hype; the free agent rumors, the draft picks, the OTAs and the preseason; all of it has led up to this.
The Chicago Bears are already depleted football team. As a fan of the game, you never hope anything like that on another team, but it is what it is, and that makes the Bucs’ goal a little easier on Sunday. The Bears will be without their top two wide receivers, Cam Meredith and Kevin White, and will also be without their starting middle linebacker Jerrell Freeman. Wide receivers Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton will take the place of the two receivers, but, honestly, I’m not sure much of that matters anyways since the Buccaneers defense knows now-Chicago quarterback Mike Glennon so well. Glennon is what he is, and even if he’s improved – which itself is debatable – the Bucs defense should know what he capable of, and how to take it away.
The biggest overall matchup of the day will be Chicago’s Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks, Leonard Floyd and the rest of the Bears aggressive front seven against the Buccaneers offensive line. That unit will be able to test the Bucs trenches from inside and out, and time in the pocket will tell a tale. However, with Freeman out as the Bears top middle linebacker, that likely leaves the slower, run stopping Nick Kwiatkoski to get playing time. Knowing that, the X-factor for the Bucs will likely be Cam Brate or O.J. Howard over the middle. Even when facing a tough pass rush, playing 12 personnel (1 running back, 2 tight ends) with two athletic tight ends can allow for easy, quick completions over the middle. I think those two are what keeps the drives going and the scoreboard lighting, even if they don’t get the scores themselves.
As long as the Bucs can keep the Bears running backs, Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard, relatively in check, I think it will be a long game for Chicago.
Sikkema’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 31-10
Sikkema’s Pick-to-Click: TE Cameron Brate