This Sunday the Chicago Bears will be playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in jolly, old London England. Once a year the NFL exports its product to the European market for people on the other side of the pond to enjoy. While that is nice for Europeans to see American football and a nice advertisement for the NFL, I can’t imagine what it does to the players of the two teams involved. Football players and coaches are usually very regimented in their practice and preparation schedules. A trip to England is a huge disruption in this process. The only good thing to be said is that both teams will be affected by it (though the Buccs made the trip earlier in the week).
Having said that, this should be an interesting game. The Buccaneers are a young, up-and-coming team lead by a young coach, Raheem Morris, and a young QB, Josh Freeman. The Buccs are 4-2. That despite being outscored 145-113 in those six games. Offensively, the Buccs are a middle of the road team. They rank 15th, 14th and 15th in total yards, passing yards and rushing yards respectively. Defensively, it’s another story. Tampa Bay has the 25h overall ranked defense. Their pass defense is a woeful 26th and their rush defense is 18th in the league. What this means is that the Buccs are vulnerable, especially through the air. This will help the Bears, who need to work on their passing game; their pass protection in particular. The Buccaneers only have 10 sacks this season, so the Bears won’t be facing a fierce pass rush this week.
The Bears will be looking to continue the strides they made last week on both offense and defense. Defensively, even though the Bears looked great last week, they’re still in the bottom half of the league in both run and pass defense (22nd and 25th respectively). The Bears’ defense needs to step it up again this week, and the mediocre Buccs offense may present them an opportunity to do so. On the offensive side of the ball, I look for the Bears to continue their max protect scheme. Cutler shines when he’s given time to pass the ball. Keeping more guys behind to block coupled with Tampa’s average pass rush may be what the doctor ordered. I would also look for the Bears to continue keeping things more balanced between run and pass. This happened last year when the Bears got pummeled by the Giants. The Bears had gotten too out of whack with their run-pass balance. The Bears do not have the personnel to run “The Greatest Show on Turf,” so they have to make due with what they have. When they got more balanced last year, they ended up winning 7 of their last 9 games. I think they’ll do the same this year.
I think the Bears will win this game. The Buccs do not have anyone on their roster that scares anybody. They’re a good team that’s well coached, but they’re beatable. I expect the Bears to continue to run a balanced attack running the ball behind Matt Forte and Marion Barber, with a heavy dose of play-action passes thrown in. The Bears will keep utilizing the max protect scheme given the success it had against Minnesota’s much vaunted pass rush.
Prediction: Bears 27, Buccaneers 13