The Chicago Bears were painfully close to pulling off an upset win that could have possibly changed the narrative of the 2017 season. Instead, the team heads into its Week 2 matchup against the Tampa Buccaneers reeling after a loss and a week full of unfortunate injury news.
But now it’s time to turn the page and focus on getting the next one.
After hanging tough with the defending NFC champions, the Bears turn their attention to a Buccaneers team that missed the playoffs despite finishing with a 9-7 record. Offensively, the Buccaneers have the look of a potential juggernaut with a strong-armed quarterback on the rise (Jameis Winston), two game-breaking receivers (Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson), and a pair of two-way tight ends (Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard) leading the charge. Defensively, the Buccaneers are a bit like the Bears with a quality front seven that has the ability to stuff a running game, but a hit-and-miss secondary that can be vulnerable against the big play.
Week 1 left the Bears with a bad taste in their mouths, but there is no better way to rinse that out than a Week 2 road win.
“Never Tell Me The Odds”
The Chicago Bears are 7-point road underdogs (with the over/under set at 43) to start the season against the home-standing Buccaneers, according to Bovada.lv. The Bears beat the 7-point spread last week, which is an accomplishment of sorts considering the team was 7-9 against the spread last year and are 14-18-1 against the spread since head coach John Fox took over. The Bears didn’t get their first until Week 4 last year, so this totally counts as progress.
Tampa Bay was 9-7 against the spread last year, but 1-3 when favored against the line.
Sunday marks the third consecutive year in which the Bears have made a trip to Raymond James Stadium with the teams splitting the pair. Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston threw for 312 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the team’s 36-10 win against the Bears last year. Despite that lopsided loss, the Bears are 38-19 all-time against Tampa Bay. That includes a 24-18 win at Wembley Stadium in London back in 2011. It’s the only time the Bears have played overseas.
Game Time, Broadcast Info, Officiating Crew
Location: Raymond James Stadium; Tampa, Fla.
Noon, FOX-TV (Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth, Shannon Spake), WBBM-AM 780, WCFS-FM 105.9 (Jeff Joniak, Tom Thayer, Zach Zaidman)
Referee: Ron Torbert
Expected Starters and Lineups
Bears Offense Expected Starters:
- QB Mike Glennon
- RB Jordan Howard
- FB Michael Burton
- WR Kendall Wright
- WR Deonte Thompson
- TE Dion Sims
- LT Charles Leno Jr.
- LG Tom Compton
- C Cody Whitehair
- RG Josh Sitton
- RT Bobby Massie
Bears Defense Expected Starters:
- DE Akiem Hicks
- NT Eddie Goldman
- DE Mitch Unrein
- OLB Willie Young
- ILB Nick Kwiatkoski
- ILB Danny Trevathan
- OLB Leonard Floyd
- CB Marcus Cooper
- CB Kyle Fuller
- FS Eddie Jackson
- SS Quintin Demps
- Connor Barth (kicker), Pat O’Donnell (punter, holder), Andrew DePaola (long snapper), Deonte Thompson (kick returner), Bryce Callahan (punt returner)
Buccaneers Offense Expected Starters:
- QB Jameis Winston
- RB Jacquizz Rodgers
- WR DeSean Jackson
- WR Mike Evans
- TE Cameron Brate
- TE O.J. Howard
- LT Donovan Smith
- LG Kevin Pamphile
- C Ali Marpet
- RG J.R. Sweezy
- RT Demar Dotson
Buccaneers Defense Expected Starters:
- DE Robert Ayers
- DT Gerald McCoy
- DT Chris Baker
- DE William Gholston
- OLB Kendell Beckwith
- MLB Kwan Alexander
- OLB LaVonte David
- CB Vernon Hargraves
- CB Brent Grimes
- S Chris Conte
- S Keith Tandy
- Nick Folk (kicker), Bryan Anger (punter, holder), Garrison Sanborn (long snapper), Ryan Smith (kick returns), Adam Humphries (punt return)
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Chicago Bears – Offense
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains told reporters he didn’t think Tarik Cohen was ready to take on a full load, Cohen’s usage in his debut says otherwise. Cohen led the team in rushing and receiving yards, targets, as well as receptions. He also set a Bears rookie record for most all-purpose yards in a debut performance. With health questions continuing to pop up among the Bears receivers, Cohen still figures to get a ton of work – whether it’s out of the backfield or even lined up as a receiver in the slot. Cohen would have been Pro Football Focus’ third highest-graded running back … if he would have played enough snaps to qualify for inclusion on their rankings. Still, an 82.5 grade is not too shabby.
Mike Glennon has a history against Mike Smith’s defenses that could be worth noting for some. Smith currently serves as the Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator, but was also the Atlanta Falcons’ head coach from 2008 to 2014. Glennon faced Smith’s defenses three times, most recently in 2014. In those three games, Glennon completed 63 of 91 passes (69.2%), threw for 608 yards, five touchdowns, and no interceptions. It all adds up to a gaudy 105.9 rating. Glennon enters this week aiming to build on a 97.0 rating he posted in the fourth quarter against Atlanta.
Kendall Wright was Glennon’s favorite receiver in the preseason and should be lined up to get some looks with both Cameron Meredith and Kevin White out of action. Wright’s 72.7 grade from PFF was the best among Bears receivers, which isn’t all that great. Only Deonte Thompson played more pass snaps than Wright in Week 1.
Chicago Bears – Defense
Inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski isn’t listed as a starter on the depth chart, but he will most likely start next to Danny Trevathan in place of Jerrell Freeman, who is out for the foreseeable future with a torn pectoral muscle. Kwiatkoski made seven starts last year in place of an injured Trevathan and suspended Freeman, so this isn’t an unfamiliar spot for the second-year linebacker. He should also be ready to carry a heavy load after playing in 98 percent of the team’s defensive snaps down the stretch last season. Hopefully, he’s ready to drop into coverage down the field against tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard.
Akiem Hicks was a monster in Week 1, producing a pair of sacks and a big game one day after signing a big money extension. He’ll go up against a well-rested offensive line protecting one of the best quarterbacks in football. Hicks was PFF’s 12th best interior defender in Week 1, bringing home an 84.8 grade, including an 80.4 pass rush grade that ranked 14th among players at his position.
After entering Week 1 in the best shape of his life, Pernell McPhee played just four snaps in the season opener. If Leonard Floyd is going to miss time with an injury, both Hicks and McPhee need to put forth some strong pass rush productivity.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Offense
Jameis Winston seems to be on the brink on NFL stardom. He has thrown for 8,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in two seasons. Last year, he torched the Bears secondary to the tune of 312 yards, a pair of touchdowns, and 107.1 rating. Things will look a little different this time around for Winston, who will see a secondary with four new starters with eyes on coming down with the Bears’ first interception of 2017. Winston has thrown 33 picks in his first two years in the NFL, only Philip Rivers and Blake Bortles have thrown more since the start of 2015.
DeSean Jackson can run hot or cold depending on which player shows up on any given Sunday. When he’s at his best, he’s one of the league’s best vertical route runners and a constant threat to run deep past the secondary to haul in a touchdown. Jackson has led the NFL in yards per reception three times in his career, including twice in the last three years. Though, there are times where he isn’t at his best and he is easily run off routes and seems disinterested. Jackson signed a big free agent contract after hauling in 56 catches for 1,005 yards with Washington. Teaming up with Mike Evans on the other side makes for a potentially potent passing offense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Defense
Gerald McCoy has been one of the best defensive tackles in football for seven years running. Last year, PFF gave McCoy an 87.1 grade that put him in the upper echelon among defensive tackles. Getting a healthy Kyle Long could help the interior of the Bears’ offensive line hold off McCoy, a five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman who picked up seven sacks last year and has 42.5 sacks in his professional career.
Vernon Hargreaves was 11th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft out of Florida, going two picks after the Bears selected outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. Hargreaves started all 16 games as a rookie last season, coming up with one interception, one forced fumble, and 68 tackles. Pro Football Focus wasn’t fond of Hargreaves’ play in 2016, giving him a 44.4 grade as a rookie. Glennon could follow the blueprint left by quarterbacks in 2016, who picked on Hargreaves to the tune of 127 targets, 86 receptions, and 1,271 yards.
Perhaps some Bears receiver will be the beneficiary going against a player who allowed 163 fantasy points to receivers in 2016.