Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5) vs. Chicago Bears (2-6)
Sunday, November 13, 1:00 P.M. ET
Raymond James Stadium (65,618)
Network Television: FOX
Play-By-Play: Dan Hellie Analysts: David Diehl Sideline: Holly Sanders
Bucs Radio: US 103.5, Flagship Station (103.5 FM, 620 AM & 95.3 FM)
Play-By-Play: Gene Deckerhoff Analyst: Dave Moore Sideline: T.J. Rives
Last Game: Tampa Bay Lost vs. Atlanta, 43-28; Chicago Won vs. Minnesota, 20-10
The Buccaneers, coming off a mini-bye and approaching the second half of the season with a clean slate, are set to take on the Bears in an NFC Central throwback this Sunday in Raymond James Stadium.
While Chicago is fully rested from a regular bye and coming off its best win of the season two Sunday’s ago – 20-10 over the Vikings in Week 8 – the 2-6 team seems to give Tampa Bay a good opportunity to end its home-win drought. Then again, the Bears, who are 0-3 on the road this season, are probably thinking the same thing for their own skid.
After missing five weeks with a thumb injury, quarterback Jay Cutler returned against Minnesota and turned in a solid outing. Cutler is no stranger to criticism, but few doubt his talent and arm strength. Count the Bucs as believers, as coordinator Mike Smith and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy both praised the 11th-year signal-caller this week.
The Bucs, meanwhile, could also get back one of their key components on offense as Doug Martin (questionable) is set to be a game-time decision. If available, the Pro Bowl back should take some pressure off Jameis Winston and give life to a reeling ground game as well as open up play action.
The Bears have won the last three meetings against the Bucs, and Cutler’s streak extends even further (4-0 against Tampa Bay, dating back to ’08 in Denver). Do the Bucs find the elusive win – at home and against Chicago? Read what the Pewter Reporters think.
PewterReport.com Publisher & Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
The Chicago game might represent the best and last opportunity to get a home win this season unless Tampa Bay gets significantly better and significantly healthier. The Bears are healthier, too, especially at quarterback where Jay Cutler is back under center. The key will be to get pressure on Cutler, which has been difficult for the Bucs defense. If the front four can’t get to Cutler early defensive coordinator Mike Smith will have to dial up some blitzes to force quick throws.
Linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander need to bring their “A” games to the table on Sunday.
Not only will they have to cover tight end Zach Miller in coverage, David and Alexander will need to shut down running back Jordan Howard, who has 505 yards rushing this year and is averaging 5.1 yards per carry. The return of defensive tackle Clinton McDonald would be a big boost to Tampa Bay’s defensive line.
Jameis Winston and Mike Evans need to continue to shine in the passing game with slot receiver Adam Humphries and tight end Cameron Brate doing their best as supporting characters. The Bucs running game will obviously be lifted up if Doug Martin is deemed to be healthy enough to play. If not, the banged up offensive line will need to do its best to open holes for Mike James and Peyton Barber. The offense needs to do its job and score 28 points, while the defense must show improvement and not let Cutler and Alshon Jeffery connect on big plays downfield.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Bucs win 23-20
Reynolds’ Pick To Click: WR Mike Evans
PewterReport.com Editor and Chief & Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
If it is going to get turned around, it needs to start on Sunday. The 2016 season is at a crucial point, and if these Bucs are honest in saying this is a different team than ones in recent past, they need to win this football game. There is a huge difference in 3-6 and 4-5.
With that said, I believe the Bucs come out and do just that. This a game where the Bucs should be able to move the football through the air, and if by chance Doug Martin is able to play, there are yards to be gained on the ground. Defensively is where the big questions are, but I think this defense is embarrassed by how they have played the last two weeks and I got the sense from defensive coordinator Mike Smith that he is angry. Well as angry as he can get. The coaches spent the mini bye-week last weekend making some team and also some self-evaluations. I think it pays off in a big way.
The Bucs wil come out fast and never let up, and while the defense could have some lapses, the offense will play well and Jameis Winston and Mike Evans will have a big game. The good guys get back on track, and start the new season, 1-0.
Cook’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 37-17
Cook’s Pick to Click: QB Jameis Winston
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Eric Horchy
The Bucs are in must-win mode and a number of players expressed that notion this week as they prepare for a visit from the Chicago Bears.
At least that’s the case if postseason dreams are to morph into reality.
Eight games remain on the schedule and the Bucs do benefit from being in a division with no clear-cut frontrunner at the moment, but there isn’t much wiggle room when you’re 3-5. Dropping Sunday’s game to lowly 2-6 Chicago would all but seal Tampa Bay’s fate as a postseason bystander for the ninth straight year.
The good news is that the Bucs are getting a little healthier. Emphasis on ‘a little.’ Better news would be knowing for certain that running back Doug Martin, center Joe Hawley and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald will be on the field battling with the rest of the team.
Two Sundays ago this game looked about as close to a lock as the Bucs can possibly get, especially when considering their own laundry list of negative issues. Then came the Bears’ 20-10 Monday Night Football win over NFC North rival and supposed contender Minnesota. That game represented the return of quarterback Jay Cutler and Chicago went on to roll up 403 yards, the most surrendered this season by the Vikings defense.
That Bears win combined with Tampa Bay’s ineptitude at home has to dent confidence levels of even the most optimistic Bucs fans. But the growing frustrations of another lost season will slow Sunday after the Bucs register their first win at Raymond James Stadium since a Week 13 victory over Atlanta last year.
I anticipate the defense bouncing back this week and turning in a much-needed, solid, all-around performance that starts with containing the Bears rushing attack. Rookie running back Jordan Howard went for 153 yards on 26 carries against Minnesota. Getting McDonald back next to Gerald McCoy on the interior defensive line will be a major help in sealing off running lanes and then forcing Cutler to air it out and throw a few balls to pewter and red jerseys.
Chicago’s defense isn’t half bad but quarterback Jameis Winston will rise to the challenge this week and finally get that elusive home win, even if he does feel some heat from a Bears pass rush that will be attacking a shuffled-up offensive line. If Hawley’s out, former starter Evan Smith will fill in at center and the Bucs will have to figure out who starts at left guard for Kevin Pamphile.
Horchy’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 26-17
Horchy’s Pick To Click: CB Brent Grimes
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Zach Shapiro
With Seattle, New Orleans and Carolina remaining on the home schedule, fans are looking at this game as the one. But cautious optimism is recommended.
Though the Bears are 2-6, the defense has quietly improved under coach John Fox – 14th against run, 12th against pass – and they’re a better offense with Cutler under center. Just look at his performance against one of the NFL’s best defenses in Minnesota: 20 of 31 completions for 252 yards and a touchdown.
Of course, the Bucs are hoping for a similar jolt of energy from Doug Martin (questionable), whose workload has increased every day this past week, coach Dirk Koetter said Friday. While Jacquizz Rodgers has performed admirably, Martin adds a new dimension to accompany Jameis Winston and Mike Evans. Along with giving the offense one of the league’s best running games, the every-down back also opens up play action. His return would be huge.
Regardless, I believe the Bucs will be able to get the offense going early and keep the pressure on the Bears young defense. That leaves it up to the Bucs defense, a unit that’s surrendered over 1,100 yards the past two weeks. Lucky for them, though, the Bears don’t possess the weapons that Oakland and Atlanta have.
Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes will have to account for Alshon Jeffery, a much bigger threat with Cutler at the helm, but that’s still one receiver, as opposed to the dynamic duos that Ray Jay has seen the last two weeks. And given that Chicago has only allowed 14 sacks, the stats suggest that the secondary will have to step up. I think they will.
Along with a strong game from Kwon Alexander, I also expect Lavonte David to return to form this Sunday against a team averaging less than 100 yards on the ground. Bucs get it done.
Shapiro’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 31-20
Shapiro’s Pick To Click: Lavonte David
PewterReport.com Intern Jaret Rojas
After two games in five days, the Buccaneers were a tired and banged up bunch. The extra two days should serve them well, especially considering the return of Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin
On Sunday, Tampa Bay will face a team in Tampa who hasn’t won a road game in 2016. The Bucs haven’t won a home game so far this season. The Bears, coming off a bye, are 2-6 on the season coming off an impressive win against the NFC North Division-leading Vikings.
Bears veteran QB Jay Cutler returned to the field in their last game. Throwing for 252 yards and a touchdown, Cutler led his team to victory.
“Oh gosh, when Jay Cutler is playing quarterback, we’ve got to defend a guy whose got a hose. I mean he can friggin’ throw it.” Bucs DC Mike Smith answered when asked about Chicago’s offense, with no hesitation.
The Tampa Bay defense has given up over 1,000 yards in the past two games, including over 800 through the air. Derek Carr and Matt Ryan, under little pressure, carved up the the Bucs defenders. Jay Cutler can and will do the same if the defense allows him.
Granted Winston and Evans play, perhaps accompanied by RB Doug Martin who has been out since week two with a hamstring injury and questionable for Sunday’s game, I believe this offense will propel in a big offensive game by both teams. But I don’t think Tampa Bay’s defense is going to recover after the way Atlanta took them down.
Rojas’s Score Prediction: Bucs lose 34-30
Rojas’s Pick to Click: CB Vernon Hargreaves