Bears vs. Bucs prediction: Under Center crew picks the game originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Bears will look to bounce back from their disappointing loss to the Packers in Week 1 with a road win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday. Heading into the year most fans and pundits penciled in a victory for the Bears here, since the Bucs were expected to take a step back with Tom Brady calling it a career. However, the Bucs surprised most of the NFL world with an upset win over the reigning NFC North champion Vikings in Week 1.
Baker Mayfield, who might be working with his last chance to be a starter in the NFL, played a clean game. The defense was stout as usual, and forced the Vikings to give the ball away three times. Mike Evans was Mike Evans. This is not a team of slouches, and the Bears won’t have a gimme to get into the win column. Here’s how our Under Center Podcast crew sees the game going:
I want to be open and honest. This will not be a prediction, this will be a hope. The Bears enter this game coming off an opening week loss to their rival the Green Bay Packers. The Tampa Bay Bucs had an unsuspected victory against the Minnesota Vikings with Baker Mayfield under center. Tampa brings back a strong defense to go along with a good passing game with one of the NFL best receiving tandem in Michael Evans and Chris Godwin. I think the Bears defense has a much better day, partially due to the fact Tampa doesn't have a strong running game. The question will be what Justin Fields does against Todd Bowles’ confusing defensive looks. I think Fields will rise to the occasion and the Bears will win a close game.
Bears: 27, Buccaneers: 24
The Packers beat the Bears in practically every phase of the game, but two big factors were Aaron Jones and poor third-down defense. The Bucs don’t have a dynamic running back like Jones, which should help put their defense in favorable positions. I expect the defense to clean up some of the coverage miscues, and maybe dial up some Todd Bowles-style pressure, to help get off the field more often on those third downs. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are obviously excellent receivers, but Jaylon Johnson, Tyrique Stevenson and Tremaine Edmunds should be able to do a better job against them than the shoddy Vikings pass defense.
On offense, the execution has to get better, right? Much is made about Bowles’ exotic blitz packages, but I thought the Bears did a nice job picking up and passing off stunts that the Packers sent their way in Week 1. If the Bears can continue to communicate well on the line, and maybe add a few extra blockers when needed, I think the protection can improve. The Bears know they have to get the ball in DJ Moore’s hands, and I expect we’ll see that too.
The real key will be turnovers, however. The Vikings gave the Bucs many extra opportunities and short fields, and that helped Mayfield to score without having to move the ball too much. If the Bears take better care of the football, they’ll have a better shot of winning.
Bears: 23, Buccaneers: 20
I had this game pegged as a loss for the Bears when the schedule was released in May. I flipped that prediction to a Bears win after an August in which Baker Mayfield was supposedly battling Kyle Trask for the starting quarterback job. I can’t in good conscience pick the Bears after their embarrassing flop against the Green Bay Packers in Week 1. The Bears have to show me some signs of life before I pick them to win on the road against an experienced, blitz-happy defensive head coach.
The Bears barely breathed on Jordan Love in Week 1. The Bucs’ offensive line did a great job holding up against a Minnesota Vikings front with more talent than the one the Bears will bring to West Florida. Sure, the Bucs struggled to run the ball, but Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are good enough that it won’t matter. I think Kyler Gordon’s absence at nickelback will loom large and the Bears’ inability to pressure Mayfield will lead to big days for Evans and Godwin.
On the other side of the ball, the Bears’ offensive line gave up 25 pressures in Week 1. Bucs head coach Todd Bowles is going to send every sort of exotic blitz he can think of at quarterback Justin Fields. I think the offense has another sluggish day and the Bears leave Florida at 0-2 with a Week 3 date against the Kansas City Chiefs on deck.
Prediction: Bucs 24, Bears 20