Submitted by Marcus Williams, please enjoy this article about the Bucs, the race to the playoffs that is not over yet and the upcoming game with the Bears. Thanks to Marcus for his contribution.
Sitting at 3-5 and coming off a 43-28 loss to the Falcons that was more lopsided than the score suggests, it’s hard to believe that we can say Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL playoffs in the same sentence (unless we’re saying they can’t make it) but with eight games to play, the Bucs still could turn it around. Recent history tells us it isn’t impossible to start the year 3-5 and make the playoffs. Both the Redskins and Texans did it last season and the Bucs only trail the 6-3 Falcons by two games in the loss column and split the season series with them.
While it is hard to say exactly how many of their final eight games they would need to win to have a shot at the playoffs, one thing is for certain, they need to start winning at home (something they haven’t done in four tries this season) and that starts when they host the 2-6 Chicago Bears this Sunday. As you tune in for that game, there are a few things to watch for.
The Bucs’ defense was bad last season, but it has been even worse this year. They are giving up 745 yards after first contact (meaning they don’t tackle well) which is third worst in the league. Additionally, over their last two games, they have given up more than 1,000 yards, including a franchise worst 626 yards in their loss to the Raiders. The Bears may be 2-6, but Jay Cutler is back and appears to have re-established the chemistry with Alshon Jeffery that could make things tough on the Bucs defense. They must get pressure on Cutler and force him into mistakes if they want to win on Sunday.
Mike Evans vs. Bears Secondary
The Bears pass defense ranks 12th in the NFL, giving up 238 yards per game. Mike Evans, who appears set to play provided he has no setbacks going through the league’s concussion protocol, leads the NFL with eight touchdowns and his 55 receptions. His 745 yards receiving are third and fourth respectively. Evans is on pace to break team single-season records in all those categories. He is coming off an 11-catch, 150-yard, two-touchdown performance in the loss to Atlanta and the Bucs will need another huge day from him against an average pass defense to get the win.
In the Bucs 26-21 loss to the Bears last season, Jameis Winston threw a costly pick that sealed the defeat. If he is going to change the outcome this season, the Bucs need to get him on the move and get their running game going so play action becomes more effective. Winston has been at his best this year when he’s able to do both. Ten of his 17 touchdowns have come outside the pocket and his 75 percent completion percentage off play action (59 percent overall) is fourth best in the league. Winston has the ability to use his legs to extend plays and is clearly more accurate when facing the single coverage play action can often provide. The Bucs need to get him in this comfort zone if they want to win on Sunday.