The Chicago Bears and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had very different Week 1 experiences.
On one hand, Da Bears came into the season as a team on the rise, with their near-top-of-the-league spending in free agency, getting wide receiver D.J. Moore and a solid draft class. Chicago’s quarterback Justin Fields is finally getting a chance to prove himself on an actual NFL team.
Alas, things did not go according to plan to start the season. Chicago lost in embarrassing fashion to a Green Bay Packers team coming off an offseason where it lost Aaron Rodgers and dealt with more salary cap woes.
The Bucs, as most of you readers well know, came into their season opener as underdogs against another NFC North team in the Minnesota Vikings, the defending division champs no less. Tampa Bay was, and still is, a team dealing with the retirement of Tom Brady and as constrictive a salary situation as there is in the NFL.
No matter. The Bucs gutted out a road win and are 1-0 to start the year. Who’s to say they can’t continue to surprise people and take down the Bears?
While the Bears have a defense built around a pair of very good linebackers—free agent signees T.J. Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds—the rest of Chicago’s front seven leaves something to be desired.
Yannick Ngakoue is the lone pass rushing “threat” and the other defensive linemen are a step below him. The Bucs offensive line, similar to last week, should be able to hold its own in protecting quarterback Baker Mayfield and give him time to do his thing.
The real question marks for Tampa Bay’s home opener are the running game—which submitted a very meh 77-yard performance last week but also managed to only lose yards once in 33 rush attempts—and the Bucs defense’s ability to limit Justin Fields’ legs.
Enter Tampa Bay’s familiar star linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White. White was arguably one of the best performers in last week’s opener, and David will hopefully feed off his mentee’s energy and give his usual professional performance. Those two will be key in making sure Fields doesn’t run wild on the Bucs Sunday afternoon at RayJay.
I think they’ll live up to the task; the Buccaneers should win a close battle 24-21 and begin the season 2-0 in their quest to three-peat as NFC South division champs.
Hopefully the Bucs will reward my faith Sunday afternoon and continue to ride their success to a decent if not overly remarkable season. If they don’t, there’s always the prospect of drafting Caleb Williams and Marvin Harrison, Jr. to dream about.