For this young Buccaneers team this will be perhaps one of their most challenging weeks of the season. The team has been in London in preparing for the upcoming match-up with the Chicago Bears and there is plenty to distract them beyond just the new settings.
For starters this is a young Buccaneers team that has proven time and time again they are capable of handling adversity, but they have rarely been tested with handling success. The Bucs are tied for first in the NFC South with a de facto half game lead coming off a big win over the formerly division-leading New Orleans Saints. This is a huge high for a young team to handle in a normal week. Toss in a transatlantic flight and a week in a different country with a time change and you can understand why this week, more than ever, discipline will be of the utmost importance.
And let’s not forget, the Bucs are not without their share of adversity, LeGarrette Blount will miss another week and their starting center, Jeff Faine is out. For another week the Bucs will have to rely on Earnest Graham to fill the considerable void left by Blount’s absence.
Fortunately for Bucs fans Graham was impressive last week when he rushed for over 100 yards in the Bucs win against the Saints, but this goes back to my original point. The Bucs must avoid the pitfalls that a team their age often succumbs to. They can’t rest on their laurels. They can’t underestimate a 3-3 Bears team. They can’t take it easy because they’re in London. I’m not saying don’t enjoy your down-time but it’s a work trip.
This is the week we see the maturity of this team.
Win or lose, because despite some problems early, this is still largely the same team that went 12-4 last year and won the North, if the Bucs play a smart, efficient game where they avoid mental errors, turnovers and penalties, that’s the sign of a mature team. I’m not saying mistakes don’t happen, but there’s a line between what happens in game and sloppy, and you know it when see it.
If this turns into two weeks ago, against San Francisco then you know the Bucs haven’t turned the corner. Because that was the same thing. It was a long travel week coming off a big win against a divisional rival (Atlanta).
But if they learned anything from that, and if Raheem Morris is on his game (which is more important than ever given the aforementioned distractions surrounding the week), then maybe the Bucs will play a strong, disciplined game against the Bears and come away with a win.