Cheerio! Welcome to our Week 7 matchup – the Chicago Bears vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming to you from Wembley Stadium in jolly old England. The Bears take to the pitch with a record of 3-3 coming off their best game of the season, a 39-10 drubbing of the Minnesota Vikings, while the Buccaneers come off an impressive win over division rival Saints to move their record to 4-2.
To help prepare for the game a get a little insight behind enemy lines, we touched base with Patrik Nohe of The Pewter Plank for our weekly 5 Questions.
They’re a young team, still the NFL’s youngest actually, and there are a lot of ways they still need to improve. Against the 49ers the Bucs had a let-down, they were coming off a big divisional win over the rival Falcons and a big MNF win over the Colts, they had a cross-country trip on a short week of rest and they mailed it in. This game isn’t so different, only flip out short week with being in a foreign country. This week will test the Bucs discipline and maturity, if they put in a good week of prep they should avoid the issues of a couple weeks ago. But that’s not a given, they could get distracted in London or rest on their laurels and get drubbed. But this team has the potential to be great or the potential to be terrible and the difference is in the details.
Yes, I’ve learned to never doubt Earnest Graham because he will always prove you wrong. Graham rushed for 109 in the win over the Saints, I’ll be honest I dumped on the Bucs for not having a better back up and he was great. It’s easy to forget too that Graham ran for nearly 900 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2007 when he took over for Cadillac Williams mid-season. He’s an underrated, blue-collar guy who won’t blow you away in any part of his game but will make a defense pay for every missed tackled and assignment. He’s very consistent, very efficient in what he does. He’s not LeGarrette Blount but the Bucs rushing game won’t be impotent with Graham carrying the ball either.
Mike Williams is fine. He’s probably been pushing it too much the last few games because he hasn’t gotten the numbers or had that big game yet this year, and that’s lead to some drops, but Williams isn’t going to fizzle out. He’s learning to deal with consistent double teams, he’s refining his route-running and he’s also been a little banged up. Part of the issue has also been that the Bucs have been relying more on a running game and other receivers like Dezmon Briscoe and Preston Parker are emerging in Tampa. But don’t give up on Williams yet, he’s going to pop off one of these weeks. He’s still Josh Freeman’s favorite target.
Against the 49ers that’s not surprising, but the Saints game was actually fairly well played by the Bucs defense. Tampa is still a little bull-headed at times and believes too much in the potential of their front four as opposed to the current product. If the Bucs send a linebacker or corner to help with the pass rush they have actually been quite successful this year. Unfortunately against a team like the Saints with backs that can catch passes, a 6’8 tight end and a stable of quick receivers you don’t always have the luxury of sending that extra man.
Against the Bears I expect the Bucs to send extra men after Jay Cutler instead of relying on a basic four man pass rush like they often-times do. Part of that stems from Mike Martz’s refusal to use tight ends in the passing game and the fact that’s historically been one of the best ways to attack the Bucs defense. Without that as a consistent threat, I see Tampa sending a linebacker or two almost every down to try and disrupt Jay Cutler. I think the Bears will still move the ball but I also see the Bucs applying pressure.
Hmm, my british accent is bad. I’m going to predict a Buccaneers win, let’s say 27-20. I think the Bears shot themselves in the foot by taking the flight across the pond so late and frankly I think the Bucs stack up well. As long as the Bucs don’t mail in the first half as they are wont to do I think Josh Freeman will have a good day.
Be sure to bead over to The Pewter Plank to see my answers to his questions.