What’s At Stake?
The casual Buccaneers fan has already checked out for this season. You can tell from looking at the stands. Lose again today at Raymond James stadium will drop them to 0-5 at home and even the die-hards will start to find other things to do on Sunday afternoons. Hard to blame them, really. The Bucs aren’t a boring team but they’re not real exciting either. They have moments when they can thrill you, such as when Mike Evans made that one-handed grab against the Falcons last week or any time quarterback Jameis Winston tucks the ball and runs with it. But moments like that and victories have been too few and far between and fans are again getting fed up with it. Again. The Bucs can still change that trend of course. A win today won’t put them back on course for a playoff run but it may be enough to keep everyone interested through Thanksgiving.
The Bears have one of the best young running backs in the game in rookie Jordan Howard and one of the better receivers in the league in Alshon Jeffrey. The player on the offensive side of the ball the Bucs need to be most concerned with, though, is tight end Zach Miller. He’s no Greg Olsen but Miller leads the Bears in pass receptions (40) and touchdowns (three) and he’s coming off an seven-catch, 88-yard game in quarterback Jay Cutler’s return two weeks ago. Miller had a pretty good game against the Bucs last year, too, catching seven passes for 69 yards. The Bucs often have trouble with tight ends and this is a game where that trend could continue if the Bucs can’t figure out a way to communicate and execute better on defense.
In a quarterback-driven, pass-oriented league the Buccaneers still try go at it old school on offense and attack primarily with the run. There’s two reasons for that. First off, it’s safer, especially when you have a young quarterback prone to mistakes the way Jameis Winston is. Second, Winston has proved to be at his best working off the play-action fakes that tend to freeze opposing defenses. The stats prove it. Winston has so far completed 49 of the 65 throws he’s made off play-action fakes for 632 yards and a 75.4 completion percentage that is fourth best in the league, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Winston has completed just 54.8-percent of all the other throws he’s made this year, so the Bucs will once again try to get their ground game going today in an effort create a foundation of success for Winston and their passing game.