The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally get their opportunity to open the 2017 Regular Season. What should we look for in their matchup with the monsters of the midway, the Chicago Bears?
Records: Tampa Bay 0-0, Chicago 0-1
Game Time/Network: 1pm EST, FOX, Dick Stockton and Mark Schlereth
Spread: Tampa Bay -7
Series: Bears lead all-time series 38-19
Tampa Bay – Has Not Played
Chicago – Offense (18th overall, 10th rushing, 23rd passing, 20th in scoring), Defense (24th overall, 10th vs. the run, 25th vs. the pass, 20th in scoring)
Bucs Player to Watch
How about everyone? No, that’s a bit of a cop out. Okay then, how about Desean Jackson? Jackson was brought in to be a big play threat in the passing game and open up everything underneath for Mike Evans and the running game. The Bucs didn’t throw the deep ball too often in the preseason but worked on it tirelessly throughout training camp. We have to imagine Bucs QB Jameis Winston will be looking for some big play opportunities down the field to the speedy wide receiver.
Bears Player to Watch
Running back Tarik Cohen. I’ve been fascinated by the rookie from North Carolina A&T ever since I saw him play in the Senior Bowl. The diminutive Cohen is an electric open field runner with excellent hands and some special return ability. Had he been a bit larger than his 5 ft 6 in frame he would have been at least a second day selection. Instead, he fell to the fourth round where the Bears appear to have secured themselves a gem.
Cohen had 113 yards from scrimmage (66 rush, 47 rec) and a touchdown while giving fits to the Falcons last week.
When the Bucs Have The Ball
Protect 3. That’s it. Give him time to make the magic and the Bucs shouldn’t have a problem. Now, protecting Jameis isn’t as easy against a formidable Bears front who sacked the Tampa Bay quarterback 4 times in the last meeting and harassed him on several other throws (including the play of 2016 with Jameis running around like a chicken with his head cutoff only to complete a bomb to Mike Evans).
It will also be interesting to see how the Martin-less running game holds up. With Martin serving his 3-game suspension, Tampa Bay will rely on Jaquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims and Peyton Barber to give the offense some balance. Watching so many rookie running backs tear it up in Week One left many Bucs fans wondering if the Bucs made a tactical error on draft day not getting one for themselves.
When the Bears Have The Ball
Captain Checkdown comes home. Mike Glennon is the starting quarterback in Chicago (for now) and was basically Mike Glennon. Not terrible. Not great. He didn’t get the Bears beat but he also didn’t do much to help them win. The biggest challenge for the Bears is having to rely on their smallest player for big plays in the offense. Tarik Cohen is a threat, but after him, the Bears are rather pedestrian on offense without a number one receiver and decent but not spectacular running game.
If the Bucs can get pressure on Glennon (he was sacked 4 times by Atlanta), force him to check down and make tackles, they should be able to contain the Bears offense. It will be very interesting to see how former All-Pro Safety T.J. Ward will be deployed in the Bucs defensive scheme. Will he be a starter? Or will he just play in Big Nickel or play a Jack linebacker/safety hybrid?
Weird Facts Only Interesting to Me
- Bears coach John Fox is 13-8 vs. the Buccaneers (he was formerly the coach of the Carolina Panthers).
- The Bears have won 3 of the last 4 meetings against Tampa Bay
- The Bucs and Bears used to be division rivals in the old NFC Central Division. Chicago dominated the series while the teams were in the Central, but since 2002 when the Bucs moved to the NFC South, the series is much more even with the Bears holding a slight edge 5-4.
One Last Thing
I live tweet every game! Follow me at @jcdelatorre for some live commentary, freak outs and my own brand of snark.
Also, don’t forget Tampa Bay’s only Hall of Fame Tailgate – the WTB tailgate party, which will also feature for the first time ever – the Stick Carriers’ Walk!