Two of the league’s most surprising 2-1 teams face off in the Windy City in a battle to finish with a winning first quarter. The winner is 3-1, feeling good about their September, while the loser will exit 2-2 and wondering what could have been.
The Bucs have had their way with the Bears the last two seasons, but this is a different Bears team.
Tale of the Tape
|Turnover Ratio (actuals)||17 (-2)||4 (3)|
Bucs Offense vs Bears Defense
This is the matchup of the ballgame. Very similar to Tampa Bay’s matchup with the World Champion Eagles, the Bucs ability to protect the football and put up points against Chicago will be key. Of course, you know the numbers. The Bucs are the number 3 scoring offense in the league, number 1 in total offense and passing. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the first quarterback in NFL history, that’s right, history, to throw for 400 yds in 3 consecutive games. Think about that for a moment, folks. Marino never did it. Elway, Brees, Fouts, Peyton Manning, all the great statistical quarterbacks that have been in this league – none have done what Fitz has done. That’s why he’s playing this week (sorry, Dirk, it’s painfully obvious).
The Bears are the #2 defense in the league against the run, so I definitely wouldn’t expect Tampa Bay’s anemic running game to get well this week. While they’re not as great, #11 vs. the pass (223.7), the real challenge is containing their ferocious pass rush, that leads the league in sacks (14).
The Bucs offensive line struggled against Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense before finding themselves in the second half. They can’t afford a slow start this week against this Bears defense.
Most importantly, the Bears are a +3 in turnover margin, second in the league in forcing 8 turnovers. The Bucs offense must protect the football against this team.
Bears Offense vs. Bucs Defense
As great as the Bears defense is, their offense isn’t. Ranked 26th overall and 18th in scoring (inflated thanks to a couple defensive touchdowns), but their strength is definitely running the football behind bruiser Jordan Howard and scatback Tarik Cohen. Cohen is a game changer who is one of these Warrick Dunn types who is small, difficult to locate and has to speed to really hurt you. Howard is a pounder, who will get you that 3-to-4 yd chunk and keep the sticks moving. The Bucs strength on defense (with the exception of late in the 4th quarter against Pittsburgh) is there run defense, where they are ranked 3rd in the NFL. Controlling Chicago’s running game and forcing the Bears to beat you passing is critical for the Bucs win on Sunday.
Mitchell Trubisky has struggled since coming into the NFL. He’s 6-9 as a starter with just 9 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and a QB rating of 77.6. In his 15 starts, he has one career game over 300 yds passing and had never thrown more than 1 TD pass in a game until Week 2 this year (he threw 2 TDs against Seattle). After facing the likes of Drew Brees, Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles and Ben Roethlisberger, it will be a great relief for the Bucs to not have to face a top-notch QB. With that said, any quarterback in the NFL can kill you if you don’t pressure him.
The Bears would love nothing better than to pound the rock and have Trubisky not beat them.
Cohen is one of the most dangerous returners in the league and can change field position in a heartbeat. Shaun Wilson has been handling the kick return duties for the Bucs and has been average. However, Desean Jackson continues to be one of the most dynamic punt returners in the game, having an 80 yd touchdown return called back last week on a holding call. Kicking wise, after a tough start to the season, Chandler Catanzaro appears to have settled down, making 4-of-5 field goals and 12-of-13 extra points. The Bears’ Cody Parkey is 7-of-8 on field goals and 6-of-6 on field goals. Punting-wise, the Bucs’ Bryan Anger is averaging 42.8 yds a punt. Chicago’s Pat O’Donnell is booming punts at a 47.1 yds per punt clip.
- Old NFC Central rivals, the Bucs and Bears have a long history with Chicago owning the series 38-20.
- The Bucs, however, have won the last two meetings.
- Trubisky is a better QB at home than on the road, with a 93.5 QB rating
- In 3 games with Chi., Khalil Mack has 4 sacks, 3 FFs, FR & 27-yard
INT-TD. Aims for 4th in row with sack & FF.
- If he throws 3 touchdown passes this week, Ryan Fitzpatrick joins Tom Brady and Kurt Warner as the only QBs in NFL History to throw for 3 touchdowns in each of his first four games to begin a season.
This was a really tough game. It’s a logical loss, as the Bears are playing good football right now and not beating themselves and the Bucs are playing them on a short week after a very physical Monday Night game with Pittsburgh. Had Tampa Bay completed their rally to beat the Steelers, they’d be ripe for an upset this week. Instead, I expect the Bucs to come into this week focused and wanting to avoid a losing streak before the bye week.
Chicago would love nothing better than to play Dungy Ball, keep the score 20-17 or 17-14, that’s how they win ballgames. The Bucs need to protect the football, finish their drives and make the Bears chase the game. If they can do that, they can force young Trubisky to beat them and I don’t believe he can, even with Tampa Bay’s suspect pass defense.
Prediction: Buccaneers 27, Bears 17