The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 1-0 after an opening weekend victory in Minnesota. The defense forced three turnovers and the offense started to click in the second half as they upset the Vikings. Now they will look to keep the momentum rolling as they host former NFC Central rival Chicago Bears.
The Bears are fresh off a big loss to the Green Bay Packers. They are also the team that was the worst team in the NFL last year and had the number one overall pick in the draft before trading it away. Now they are looking to get on track in a season that was expected to be much improved.
I, personally, share that expectation that the Bears will be improved this year. And despite the good win for the Bucs and the bad loss for the Bears, this has the makings of a competitive game. Here are some of the X-Factor matchups that will likely determine this outcome.
Old Face, New Place
When the Bears traded away the first overall pick to the Carolina Panthers they got a lot of future draft picks back in return. However, the featured piece of this trade was wide receiver DJ Moore going to Chicago. The 26 year old has three 1,000 receiving yard seasons under his belt and has been consistently dangerous, despite the lack of supporting cast around him.
Moore has been a matchup problem for the Bucs in years past. His quickness is difficult to handle for big body corners like Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean. In the last eight meetings against the Bucs, Moore has had at least 50 yards receiving in every game.
I expect that trend to continue in this one. Justin Fields is the best quarterback that Moore has played with perhaps in his entire career. It is reasonable to expect a pro bowl year from the young receiver and potentially setting career highs across the board.
The Bucs strong secondary will have to keep him contained in this one. As long as he doesn’t have a great day then I don’t believe the Bears have the firepower to threaten the Bucs defense otherwise.
The Bears offensive line is a work in progress. They spent the 10th overall pick in the NFL draft on offensive tackle Darnell Wright and have also invested high draft picks in the likes of Teven Jenkins in the recent past. This is an area that Chicago knows they have to improve at.
On the other side of things, the Bucs might have the best front seven in football. The likes of Vita Vea and Shaq Barrett should be very disruptive in this game. Even the second tier pass rushers like Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Anthony Nelson and Yaya Diaby have a favorable matchup here. This has to be as big of an advantage for the Buccaneers as it seems on paper.
On the flip side, the Bucs are also a team who is looking to rebuild their offensive line. Rookie Cody Mauch and second year right tackle Luke Goedeke both looked good in week one. However, those two still have a lot to prove on the right side of the offensive line.
The Bears will test them with a modest group of pass rushers, but a few notable names. The biggest name is bendy edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue who has had at least 8.0 sacks in every year of his eight year career. The Goedeke vs Ngakoue battle will have a big impact on this game.
Fields was billed as an excellent pocket passer coming out of college. And while he hasn’t had a lot of help around him, he has shown flashes of this at the NFL level. What we didn’t expect was how dynamic he would be as a runner.
The Bears quarterback ranked 7th in the NFL in rushing last season. That isn’t just among quarterbacks, Fields had the 7th most rushing yards in the NFL with 1,143. He is a dynamic ball carrier who can escape the pocket or have designed runs drawn up for him.
It would take some kind of superhuman linebacker who can fly around at incredible speed to contain a guy like Fields. Fortunately, the Buccaneers have two of those guys. Devin White and Lavonte David are two of the best linebackers in the NFL. They must keep Fields contained and not let him run all over them.