Chicago Bears vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Previewing the matchtup

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

What to expect when Chicago Bears take on Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2 of the regular season.

The Chicago Bears, as they often have in the last two seasons, fought hard but fell short against the Atlanta Falcons, losing 23-17 in their season opener last Sunday. This Sunday, they’ll be looking to right the ship and win their first road game of the season against the Tampa Buccaneers (12:00 CT).

For the Buccaneers, this will be a delayed season opener, as their first game was canceled due to Hurricane Irma. It will also be an opportunity for quarterback Jameis Winston to test out a revamped offense filled to the brim with weapons.

For the Bears, this game will carry with it a hint of vengeance on a number of scores.

The team itself will look to avenge an embarrassing 36-10 loss to the Buccaneers last year in Tampa Bay. And quarterback Mike Glennon will aim to beat the team that benched him for Winston and let him walk in free agency.

Will the Bucs send the Chicago Bears home unhappy, or will the Bears exact their revenge?

Offense: Glennon and Co. to be tested again

As happened at points in the preseason, no one can seem to agree on whether Mike Glennon played well last Sunday or not.

On one hand, his first three quarters of play were pretty abysmal. He completed just 8/13 for 50 yards, sailed throws over open receivers and showed atrocious mobility and pocket awareness. In the minds of many, this Bears loss was completely on him.

And yet, he drove the Bears down the field and gave them a chance to win the game. In fact, they may have been a Jordan Howard drop away from pulling out a major upset. This doesn’t excuse the bad play overall, but it can’t be completely discounted.

That said, he can’t expect to keep playing like that and keep his job forever. And the Buccaneers pass defense (4th in interceptions last season with 17) won’t be an easy test.

This game will feature a few deciding matchups in the passing game, both up front and on the outside.

Can the offensive line keep Gerald McCoy (7.0 sacks in 2016) and Robert Ayers (6.0 sacks in 2016) away from Glennon?

Can Tarik Cohen, last year’s breakout star, exploit matchups with linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander out of the backfield?

And how will the receivers fare against a secondary that includes cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes?

If last week was any indication, Josh Bellamy and Deonte Thompson might spend the most time across from Tampa’s two stout corners. That could mean that Kendall Wright could be targeted frequently underneath where Glennon feels the greatest comfort.

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Plus, there’s always a chance that Markus Wheaton, who is recovering from a broken finger, can return in time to play. He’s currently questionable for Sunday’s game and would massively help the Chicago Bears’ ability to stretch the field.

However, where the Bears can really attack the Bucs may be the run game.

Tampa Bay finished last year 22nd overall in rushing yards per attempt (4.4) and 18th in rushing touchdowns surrendered (15). As such, expect the Bears to give the Buccaneers a steady dose of Jordan Howard and Cohen. Howard, in particular, could use a big day after a quiet outing last weekend (13 carries, 52 yards). And Cohen’s electric style and game-breaking ability could make a huge difference once more.

Defense: Contain Winston, passing attack

The final score didn’t work out in their favor, but the Chicago Bears’ overall play on defense was about all you could ask for against a tremendous offense.

Akiem Hicks looked like a freight train on defense, blowing up run plays and racking up two sacks. Marcus Cooper went toe-to-toe with Julio Jones most of the day and kept him to four catches for 66 yards. Kyle Fuller continued playing like he has something to prove, flying around and tackling aggressively. Heck, even Sam Acho played well.

And yet, their safety play ultimately cost them the game, as a blown coverage by Quintin Demps and Eddie Jackson left Austin Hooper wide open for a game-breaking touchdown.

If they don’t get that straightened out this week, the Bucs will run them off the field.

Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson will test them enormously down the field in completely different ways. Evans’ size and athleticism allow him to outleap and out-physical corners for balls that many receivers can’t get to. And Jackson, as the Bears found last year, still has speed to burn.

And the Bears can’t afford to forget about Bucs’ options at tight end—Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard—either.

As always, the Chicago Bears need their defensive front to step up.

Hicks is playing like he wants to be an All-Pro this season, but the Bears need more than just him. Leonard Floyd needs to come up with more pressure this week after a solid but not spectacular Week 1. If Pernell McPhee feels healthier, the Bears could benefit from playing him gradually more this week. His presence and aggressive play very well could take the pass rush to the next level.

Also, no matter who provides the pressure, they’d better put Winston on the ground. No one wants to see this again.

And with Freeman now likely out for the season, Nick Kwiatkoski must step up and take his place. He and Danny Trevathan will be tasked with bottling up Jacquizz Rodgers and covering the middle of the field. Hopefully, Kwiatkowski is up to the challenge in coverage as the Buccaneers will be sure to test him.

As far as the Bucs running the ball well? I don’t see that happening.

This game, as it did last week, could come down to Demps and Jackson keeping a lid on the vertical passing game. Needless to say, they can’t afford to blow coverage against these talented receivers and tight ends.

Going out on a limb, though, I expect that the safeties will play better this week. In particular, Jackson, with a game under his belt, will be around the ball more than he was against Atlanta. And Winston very well might give them a chance to come up with the team’s first interception of the season.

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If the Chicago Bears keep the Buccaneers’ offense in check, they’ll have a better chance to win than last year.

To be sure, Glennon’s limitations are clear. The Bears can’t honestly believe they can win consistently getting 50 yards of passing from him through three quarters. If that’s all they expect, I’m sure Mitch Trubisky could do that (and more).

But for this week specifically, a persistent run game might be enough to win this game as long as the defense holds. Atlanta has a far better run defense than Tampa Bay, and they surrendered 100+ yards to Howard and Cohen. Given that, expect Dowell Loggains to feature his two talented backs aggressively. At least he should, anyway.

As long as Glennon doesn’t screw this up and improves a little, the Bears could be 1-1 Monday morning. If he duplicates his game against the Falcons, they’ll be 0-2.