Week 1 recap
The Bears had the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons on the ropes until the closing seconds in a heartbreaking 23-17 loss at home. Chicago closed the gap to 20-17 when rookie Tarik Cohen caught a TD pass from Mike Glennon. A Falcons field goal extended the lead to six, but the Bears drove down the field in the closing moments to eventually set up first and goal at the four-yard line with less than a minute to play. Three straight incompletions, two of which were dropped passes, led to fourth down, and Glennon was then sacked to end the game.
The Buccaneers are making their 2017 after being forced by Hurricane Irma to postpone their scheduled Week 1 contest against in-state rival Miami. Tampa Bay is coming off a 9-7 season in 2016, a three-game improvement from the previous season and a record that just fell short of a playoff spot. Jameis Winston showed great improvement in his second year at quarterback, throwing for 4,090 yards and 28 touchdowns, showing great rapport with Mike Evans, who racked up 1,321 yards and 12 scores. The defense received a spark from rookie starters Kwon Alexander and Vernon Hargreaves.
Improvising at receiver
The Bears came into the preseason confident that their young receiving duo of Cameron Meredith and Kevin White could invigorate the passing game. Now just a week into the season, both are out for the year. Guys like Kendall Wright and Josh Bellamy will be pushed into bigger roles, but the Bears might have to improvise other targets for Mike Glennon, such as rookie running back Tarik Cohen, who provided a big spark at running back last week.
Chicago is also short-handed at linebacker once again. Last year it was Danny Trevathan who missed most of the year. Now its Jerrell Freeman who hit injured reserve with a pectoral injury. The next man up is second year player Nick Kwiatkoski, a fourth-rounder from West Virginia who was Trevathan’s replacement last year. Instead he’ll be tasked with keeping down the Tampa running game.
The complimentary piece
It is amazing how much damage Mike Evans has been able to do the past few years with little help at wide receiver for the Bucs. That should change this season with the addition of DeSean Jackson. Even now at age 30, there is nobody better at stretching defenses than Jackson. There might be games where he makes an impact even when he doesn’t catch any passes simply by drawing attention from Evans.
Buccaneers OT Demar Dotson v. Bears DE Akiem Hicks
Hicks is a massive defensive end known for his ability as a run-stopper, but he also can provide a dangerous pass rush, as he proved with a pair of sacks on Matt Ryan in Week 1. Dotson was slowed in the preseason with a groin injury but it looks like he’ll be ready to go for Sunday. He better be on top of his game, or else Hicks will make Jameis Winston’s life miserable from his blind side.
Fantasy football tip – Bucs TE Cameron Brate
The Bears gave up a pair of big plays last week to Falcons tight end Austin Hooper. Brate is coming off his finest season for Tampa Bay as the team’s second-leading receiver with 660 yards and eight TDs. Don’t get caught up in the hype surrounding Bucs rookie OJ Howard, who will likely serve more as a blocker in the early part of his career. Brate is the surer play.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-21 Chicago Bears
The Bears have the advantage of a game under their belts, but Tampa Bay should do enough at home once they shake off some initial rust.
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