Let’s take a look at the Bears matchup against the Bucaneers in week 2. Now last year, in the middle of their season, Tampa Bay blew out the Bears 36-10. The rout of the Bears jump started their push for a playoff spot and they closed the season on a 7-2 run, after being 3-5 going into the Bears game. The situation is much different this time.
Last time they met, the Bears were starting their death spiral of injuries and the resulting ineptitude while Jameis Winston and the Bucs were getting healthier and getting a full head of steam going to make a playoff push. That fell short. The Bears opened that game with a Jay Cutler pick-6 to Tampa safety Chris Conte, (remember him?) and never recovered… for the rest of the season. Now the Bears have seemingly emerged from week 1 with a victory for their morale, against the reigning NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. Most people believe the Bears should’ve won that game, after being on the Atlanta 5 yard line with half a minute to go. That is a lot of progress from the end of last season against a team that blew out the Packers in the NFC championship 44-21.
The top improvements the Bears made in week one were at Quarterback, where Mike Glennon didn’t make any mistakes and had them in position to win. Very anti-Cutler!
The defense, in it’s third year under coordinator Vic Fangio, played faster and by staying in their assignments for most of the game, sharply reduced the firepower of the Falcons record setting offense from a year ago. The league’s top rushing team a year ago was held to a little over 60 yards rushing in 20 carries, good enough for 3rd best of the week in the NFL. The Bears secondary talked all week about how close they were to getting a couple of interceptions against Matt Ryan.
The Buccaneers had their opener against Miami postponed until week 11, when both teams had their bye weeks scheduled. Hurricane Irma did a lot to displace the Buccaneers for the week and provide distractions for the coaches, players and their families. The Bears game represents their season opener now and the inherent rust and lack of activity will show for at least the first half, I predict.
A pumped up Jameis Winston will throw a first half pick that leads to Bears points.
Mike Glennon will throw two touchdowns against a Buccaneers defense which he practiced against for 4 years.
The Bears have listened all week about Tarik Cohen not being on the field in the final plays against Atlanta. They heard you. Cohen will line up in some two-back sets with Jordan Howard and will be split out at receiver at times on Sunday. Also, rookie tight end Adam Shaheen will get looks in any goal line packages as a decoy at the very least.
Tampa is without their start running back because of suspension. This will lead to a three pronged attack by the Bears defense. First, they will attack up the middle with an extra man in the box to stop any running game. Second, they will use this measure to force more pressure on Winston in his face and eliminate any straight ahead rushes like Ryan did for first downs. And third, they will force Winston to pick a side to roll to, to escape pressure and eliminate half the field and receivers in doing so.
The Bears defense forces too many mistakes by Tampa and holds on, Bears 27-21.