The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a wise decision when traveling toLondonshortly after their last game on Sunday. The last time the Bucs played inLondon, they arrived less than 48 hours before the game, and lost to the Patriots 35-7. This time, Coach Raheem Morris has decided to give his players an advantage of adjusting to the five hour difference. Bear’s head coach, Lovie Smith, found it ridiculous that so many people criticized his decision in arriving Friday, and discarded the idea of jet lag. I can’t imagine the ridicule he will get if his players appear at a disadvantage from jet lag against the Buccaneers. Based on the history of games played inLondon, teams that have arrived on Friday were only able to put up half of the points against the teams who arrived on Monday. If the Bears do in fact win, they will be the first to break this trend.
The Bears arrive inLondonwith an even record of 3-3. I feel the bears are a fairly easy team to evaluate, yet one of the most difficult. Much of that is because aside of what you see in the highlights, there’s not much to show. You’ve got one guy on offense getting the ball more than anybody else, a quarterback who is totally unpredictable, and a flashy kick and punt returner who keeps the team within a fair reach of points. As for the defense, the Bears tend to look one dimensional, either dominating against the run and giving up big yards through the air, or vise versa. Either way, RB Matt Forte is getting the ball.
Take Away Half of the Offense
The real question heading into Sunday’s game is how well will Matt Forte play against a defense who has already shut down Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner, Darren Sproles, and a couple of other great running backs? Forte already has 527 yards rushing this season and will prepare to build on that in front of a foreign audience. In addition to leading the Bears in rushing, Forte also leads the team in receiving with 381 yards. Forte is literally more than half of the offense. This clearly states that he is Jay Cutler’s favorite target, and as long as Forte keeps producing results, Cutler will keep feeding him the ball. Shutting him down should and most likely will be the greatest priority for the Buccaneer’s defense, and could be the x-factor in which team walks away with a win.
Proven vs. Unproven
Running back, Matt Forte, is easily the greatest offensive threat the Buccaneers will face this game. Nothing proves your value to a team more than contributing half of the total offensive production. In the last ten straight games, Forte has led the entire league and all positions with total yards of 1,522. The Buccaneers will have their hands full trying to limit him to short yards, but what if he gets into the secondary? Safeties, Sean Jones and Tenard Jackson, will be responsible for keeping the speedy running back from turning yards into points. Jackson played his first game this past Sunday against a divisional rival and proved that he still is one of the best, if not the best, athlete on the entire defensive roster. However,Jackson still has a lot to prove. He may have played a fantastic game against the Saints, but it’s still uncertain how he will perform against an unpredictable offense.
Hester, Knox, and…….
The Bear’s have two deep threats in Knox and Hester. Both are amazing athletes with incredible speed and playmaking ability. They just aren’t getting the ball. Cutler is a bit notorious for overthrowing his receivers and missing out on wide open plays. Shutting down the two receivers shouldn’t be that great of a task, and should simplify focusing on Forte.
Expect Some Sacks
There has been 6 games in this season so far. Do you know how many times Cutler has been sacked? NINETEEN TIMES!!!!! That’s ridiculous! The Bear’s offensive line has been dominated in almost every game, which has had a clear affect on Cutler’s confidence. The veteran quarterback looks uncomfortable in the pocket, even when pressure isn’t on him. The Bucs may not have a great deal of sacks recorded, but they could lead the league in “almost sacks.” The young defensive line has found a good deal of success in pressuring the quarterback these last several games, and could find themselves on the stat sheet this Sunday.
If anyone knows how dangerous Julius Peppers can be, it’s former divisional rival, Donald Penn. Penn and Peppers have gone at it for years when Peppers was defensive end for the Carolina Panthers. This will be an exciting match up that could go in either of the two athlete’s favor. Peppers has been inconsistent this season thus far, yet has still managed to record 4 sacks. I doubt he will have the same success against one of the better offensive lines in the league.
Will Mike Williams Have Another Quiet Day?
Has anyone noticed Mike Williams on the field this season? I can tell you that I sure haven’t. This is the same Mike Williams that was second in the league behind Calvin Johnson for TD receptions last season. This season, however, teams have come more prepared to face the young receiver and have an idea of how to keep his hands empty. The Bears bring a physical cornerback to do just that for them. Charles Tillman is a proven veteran who rarely gets burned deep and loves to play really physical at the point of attack. I predict it to be a very quiet game for Williams, which hopefully opens up opportunities for other receivers like Preston Parker and Arrelious Benn.
OverSTOCK of Tightends
The Buccaneers are very fortunate to see Luke Stocker fully participating in the practices that were held this week. Stocker has been injured for sometime now, and his return could be quite valuable for the Bucs this Sunday. So far this season, the Bears lead the entire NFL with points given up to tight ends. Hopefully, this is noticed and used in the Buc’s strategy and Stocker gets a chance to play big for the Buccaneers. Kellen Winslow could also see a big game in the red zone.
- Koenen vs. Hester. Devin Hester already has a punt return for a touchdown this season. In fact, it came last week. He is also averaging 27.7 yards per kick return, and 27.1 yards on punt returns. Koenen on the other hand has averaged a league low 18.4 yards per return. Koenen has been a huge pick up for the Buccaneers, and has really restricted what returners can do. Playing keep away from Hester will really help the defense in preventing any opponent points.
- Five Different Safety Cementations. The Bears haven’t figured out their safety issues. Obviously they are terrified of getting burned on deep passes, and the fact that their safeties keep getting swapped could prove to be a weakness in pass coverage. The Buc’s would be wise in using multiple receiver formations.
- No Home Field Advantage. Being that the Buccaneers home game will be played away from Raymond James Stadium, their home field advantage has been thrown out the window. The Bucs need to put up points early and gain favor of the crowd, and hopefully generate a sense of a home field advantage.
Bucs 24 – Bears 17