Chicago Bears vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: prediction, preview, pick to win

Complete watch guide to the Chicago Bears vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, including when and where to watch, series history, matchups, injury updates, prediction, and pick to win.
By The Sports Xchange   |   Nov. 12, 2016 at 10:16 AM
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KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla. TV: FOX, Dan Hellie, David Diehl, Holly Sonders.

SERIES HISTORY: 57th regular-season meeting. Bears lead the all-time series 38-18, including five of the past six meetings. The Bears won in Tampa Bay 26-21 last season. The teams met in London in 2011, with the Bears prevailing 24-18. From one of the team reports

GAMEDATE: 11/13/16

KEYS TO THE GAME:

Facing young quarterbacks early this season was a problem for the crippled Bears defense. Now, facing Bucs second-year QB Jameis Winston with almost all their best pass rushers healthy, the Bears may not need to resort to blitzing so often and can mix and disguise coverages.

Stopping the run first is critical early in the game. The Bucs have been quick to abandon the run and it puts pressure on their young passer, leading to mistakes. The Bucs will try to establish RB Doug Martin now that he is back from injury. Only four teams have thrown more interceptions than the Bucs.

The Bears zoned up the Vikings as much as possible and it's probably going to be the approach again because of Winston's penchant for throwing the ball up for grabs.

Offensively, Jay Cutler can look down the field to attack more in this game. The Bucs' pass defense allows a passer rating of 103.5, worse than all but two teams. They have yielded 37 pass plays of 20 yards or longer, ranking 31st in the league.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Bears WR Alshon Jeffery vs. Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III or Brent Grimes. Jeffery scored his first TD of season last week and Hargreaves is a promising rookie without an interception. Jeffery has a height edge on both Bucs corners, who are 5-foot-10. Matched up against a rookie, Jay Cutler is sure to look to Jeffery with an assortment of back-shoulder throws and deep sideline routes. It was that deep threat that opened up the running game and the rest of the field in the passing game against Minnesota and Chicago needs it to continue.

--Bucs WR Mike Evans vs. Bears CB Tracy Porter. Porter has two picks and Evans leads Bucs with 55 catches. Evans, at 6-5, 231, is a load to handle for even taller cornerbacks. Porter is only average height and still trying to shake the effects of a knee injury. However, has shut down top receivers three straight games. With a taller quarterback throwing to a taller receiver, though, it will be a challenge in the red zone for Porter. When the Bucs lost WR Vincent Jackson for the year on IR, it allowed defenses to focus more on Evans, so the Bears may be able to provide Porter with occasional help.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT:

Bears CB Bryce Callahan. Healthier than he has been in several weeks, Callahan could make the secondary the most viableit has been all year. Callahan displayed excellent man-to-man technique in the nickel cornerback position, and was moved to the outside after it became apparent Kyle Fuller needed knee surgery. Callahan's strength and technique were advantages inside, but on the outside speed is more of a factor. It has been only two weeks so his hamstring may not be entirely healed. If not, it may not be the big boost the Bears had hoped. Players too inexperienced to be on the outside have been handling that spot, like De'Vante Bausby, Jacoby Glenn and Cre'Von LeBlanc. If they are forced to use inexperience again, Jameis Winston could find easy pickings down the field.

INJURY REPORT:

Chicago -- Out: CB Deiondre' Hall (ankle). Questionable: CB Bryce Callahan (ankle), DT Eddie Goldman (ankle), LB Pernell McPhee (knee), CB Tracy Porter (knee), WR Eddie Royal (toe), DE Mitch Unrein (back).

Tampa Bay -- Out: T Kevin Pamphile (concussion), RB Jacquizz Rodgers (foot), WR Russell Shepard (hip). Doubtful: C Joe Hawley (knee). Questionable: RB Doug Martin (hamstring), DT Clinton McDonald (hamstring).

FAST FACTS:

Bears RB Jordan Howard set career highs in rushing yards (153) and receiving yards (49), giving him 202 scrimmage yards in the win against the Vikings. At 22 years and 4 days old, he became the youngest Bear ever with 200-plus yards from scrimmage, leapfrogging Walter Payton (22 years and 133 days old when he had 213 scrimmage yards on December 5, 1976 against the Seahawks).

Bucs WR Mike Evans had a career-high 11 receptions for a season-high 150 yards in last week's loss. He caught two of QB Jameis Winston's three touchdown passes. Winston has 17 TDPs this season, the most by a Buccaneer ever in the first eight games of a season.

PREDICTION:

Bears looked like a team renewed in 20-10 win over Vikings before bye and the confidence from that game could carry over.

OUR PICK: Bears, 35-21.

--Frank Cooney

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