As I begin this article, Hurricane Irma is still raging against the Florida coast. And while there are so many things to worry about in this time, a football game seems rather small in the grand scheme of things.
However, the Bucs season has been affected. Their week one opening game in Miami was bumped to their bye week in week eleven. Now circumstances are unclear surrounding their home opener. As of now, the Bucs are set to play the Bears this Sunday.
I don’t foresee that changing, although the location may change depending on the status of Tampa. So, assuming things go as scheduled, here’s what I predict for the Bears vs Bucs matchup.
The Bears have two strengths that stack up with most any team in the league. That is their front seven on defense and their rushing attack. These are the key to any and all success Chicago will have this year. Unfortunately for them, the Bucs have the kind of team that can handle these aspects fairly well.
Jameis Winston vs Chicago Bears Front 7
Jameis Winston is one of the best quarterbacks in the game when it comes to avoiding pressure and keeping his eyes down field. Bears fans saw that first hand last season as he had one of the highlight plays of the year after evading multiple defenders (even after retreating back to his own end zone) and finding Mike Evans for a long pass down field. That means the Bears strong front seven will be somewhat neutralized, despite a subpar pass blocking offensive line for the Bucs.
Jordan Howard vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Run Defense
Definitely the Bucs are rolling out what should be an improved run defense. They added DT Chris Baker and recently SS T.J. Ward. They also drafted a strong side linebacker, Kendell Beckwith, in the third round. These moves to get bigger, stronger and more physical up the middle were one of the top priorities for the Bucs in the offseason with guys like Jordan Howard specifically in mind.
Howard was very affective last season vs the Tampa Bay defense. He carried the ball 15 times for 100 yards on the ground (which is an average of over six yards per carry). On paper the Bucs should do better in slowing down Chicago’s star running back, but we’ll see how that translates to the field.
Where the Bucs should really separate themselves in this one is with their passing attack. The Bears had one of the worst secondaries in the league last year and although they have brought in talent to improve there that group still has a long way to go. On the other side of things, Jameis Winston is the first quarterback to ever throw for 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons and the team went out and added DeSean Jackson as well as rookies O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin to give him the best group of playmakers he’s ever had. This combination of a weak Bears secondary and an explosive Bucs passing attack should make this a fairly one-sided game. Buccaneers 27, Bears 13