The Bucs host the Bears in the home opener as they look to go 1-0
Harkening back to the “Black and Blue” days for the first two weeks of the season, the Tampa Bay Bucs get their home opener at 1-0 on the season. As for the Bears, they’re coming off what can only be considered a brutal loss to an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team that absolutely embarrassed them.
The Bucs got off to a slow start against Minnesota, but offensive coordinator Dave Canales and quarterback Baker Mayfield found some rhythm in the second half and they look to build off of that against a defense that allowed 38 points last week.
Chicago is 25th in the NFL in passing yards allowed with 237 and 13th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed with 92. That’s good news for a team that is looking to get their run game going while looking for a faster start this week from their quarterback and pass catchers.
Mike Evans, contract issues and all, led the team with 66 yards on six catches and added a touchdown. That stat line is fine – but could have looked even better if not for a couple of drops early in the game where one of them likely would have resulted in another score for him. There was involvement from Chris Godwin, Cade Otton, Trey Palmer, and even Ko Kieft in the passing game but Mayfield had an early stretch of six straight incompletions. That has to be cleaned up.
Something else that has to be cleaned up is the running production. The attempts for Rachaad White and Sean Tucker was fine, the production was not. The Bucs are 25th in the NFL in rush yards with 73 – 62 of which came from running backs. That’s on 22 carries – good for only 2.58 yards per carry. Not good enough. White and Tucker have to be more productive, but kudos to Canales for not bailing on the run game entirely when things weren’t going great. That commitment will pay off – like Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper always preaches, “process over outcome.” Believe in the process, stick with it, and the results will follow.
For Justin Fields and the Bears offense, things were rough. While they’re seventh in the NFL with 122 rushing yards, Fields threw for just 189 yards – 17th in the NFL – and just three of his 37 pass attempts traveled ten or more yards in the air. Fields also finished with two turnovers and being sacked four times. When the Bucs took on Fields and the Bears two years ago, Fields was sacked four times and turned the ball over five times thanks to relentless pressure from Bowles’ defense.
The Bears lead the all time series 40-21 with the Bucs having won three of the last five matchups. In the last meeting, the Bucs won 38-3 in Tampa. Chicago leads the all-time series as the road team 17-15, so a win on Sunday brings the Bucs closer to a .500 record as the home team in the old NFC Central rivalry.
Baker Mayfield has only ever faced the Bears once in his career, but it was a 26-6 win for the Browns at home. Mayfield went for 246 yards, one touchdown, and no turnovers in the game. In seven career games against the Bears, Evans has 446 yards and six touchdowns. A touchdown in this game will be the 83rd of his career and tie him with Antonio Brown, Brandon Marshall, and Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson 25th all time.
According to our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook, the Bucs are 2.5-point favorites with an over/under of 40.5. The Bucs have lost six of their last nine home openers as favorites and have failed to cover the spread in nine of their last ten games in the state of Florida. In six of their last seven against the Bears, the Bucs have opened the scoring.
The Bucs and Bears will kickoff at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on FOX with Joe Davis, Daryl Johnston, and Pam Oliver on the call.