The Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are both 2-1, will face-off at Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon. For the Bears, they will be looking to finish the first quarter of the season strong heading into their week five bye.
With two big wins against playoff teams in 2017, the Buccaneers have surprised many so far in 2018. The talent is there on the roster, but facing off against the best defense in the NFL will be a tall task.
Sunday’s game should be a good one. Here are some things to keep an eye on.
First Down: Quarterback Drama
No one saw Ryan Fitzpatrick playing as well as he has this season. The only reason he’s in is because of Jameis Winston’s suspension. In the three games he has started, Fitzpatrick has completed 70% of his passes for 1,230 yards and 11 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
Everything this week suggests that Fitzpatrick will be the starter on Sunday. However, the Bucs did activate Winston from the reserve/suspended list. Head coach Dirk Koetter has told Winston and Fitzpatrick who the starter will be, just not the public.
It’s important to note that Fitzpatrick has taken the majority of first-team reps in practice this week.
In 2017, Winston completed 63.8% of his passes for 3,504 yards with 19 touchdowns to 11 interceptions.
Second Down: Simplified Offense?
After the first three weeks, it doesn’t take a genius to see that the Bears’ offense has struggled. The struggles have started with the poor play of QB Mitch Trubisky. The second-year player out of North Carolina has been inaccurate and unable to make the correct reads in terms of picking of pressure or positive matchups.
On Thursday, head coach Matt Nagy said the offense may be scaled back a bit going forward. “We can’t put him in a situation where we’re trying to do too much and we take away from their talents — our players, all of them, not just the quarterback,” Nagy said. “So if we’re doing too much, making him think too much, they’re going to play slow and they’re not going to be efficient.”
Expect the Bears to dial things back a bit on Sunday, which could be huge for the development of Trubisky. The hope is that with less to “think about,” Trubisky will be able to just play out there. Over the first three games, he’s done too much thinking and not enough playing on the field.
Third Down: No Prince Amukamara
The Bears will be without Prince Amukamara on Sunday. That is a big loss for a team going up against weapons like Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and Chris Godwin. Amukamara is quietly having a solid year for the best defense in the NFL.
Through three games, Amukamara is ranked as the ninth best cornerback in the NFL per Pro Football Focus. Undrafted rookie Kevin Toliver will start on the outside alongside Kyler Fuller, while Bryce Callahan works primarily in the slot.
Again, this will be something to watch, especially because of the talented pass catchers on the Bucs.
Fourth Down: Prediction/Final Thoughts
This is the biggest game at Soldier Field for the Bears in a long, long time. Heading into the bye week at 3-1 would be huge for this young Bears team. The Bucs’ secondary isn’t very good, So I expect Trubisky to show some positive progression on Sunday.
The defensive line should also have a big day. Fitzpatrick may be running for his life on Sunday. As long as the Bears can limit the Bucs’ big-play offense, there is no reason they shouldn’t pull this one out.
Bears 24 Bucs 14
Season Record: 3-0
Follow Nick on Twitter–Featured Photo Credit: AP