Here's everything you need to know to watch Sunday's game.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Chicago Bears. Lovie Smith returns to his former employer to wreak havoc and get revenge for firing him after going 10-6 in 2012, while the Bears are struggling to get things going in Marc Trestman's second year. Can the Bucs continue their unlikely bid for a division title? Will the Bears save some face against one of the worst teams in the NFL?
Here's everything you need to know for Sunday's game.
Date: Sunday, November 23, 1:00 p.m. ET
Location: Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill.
Announcers: Thom Brennaman, David Diehl
Radio: 620 WDAE or WFUS 103.5 FM
TV Channel: FOX (Full map at 506Sports.com)
Online streaming: Verizon subscribers can watch games live with the NFL Mobile app(subscription required). NFL Game Pass offers live online broadcasts to users outside the USA. Fox Sports Go provides live streaming.
What about fantasy? Come join our FanDuel league!
What happened last game? Bears won, 24-18, Oct 23. 2011 in London.
Career record: The Bucs are 18-36 all-time against the Bears.
Odds: Chicago -5
Prediction? Buccaneers 17, Bears 24.
Facebook: Please like us. I mean our Facebook page, of course!
Week 13: Cincinnati Bengals, November 30, 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 14: at Detroit Lions, December 7, 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 15: at Carolina Panthers, December 14, 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 16: Green Bay Packers, December 21, 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 17: New Orleans Saints, December 28, 1:00 p.m. ET
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have to win these three key matchups to beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
Willie Young was a free agent this offseason. He has eight sacks as a part-time starter for the Bears this year on a contract approximately three times as cheap as Michael Johnson's. Oops.
Meanwhile, the Bucs also signed Anthony Collins who has been a massive disappointment this season. He's struggled both in pass protection and as a run-blocker and simply hasn't been worth his contract -- and yet, he's still the Bucs' best option at left tackle. He's likely to struggle against the lanky speedrusher who leads the Bears in sacks.
But Collins won't be the only player who will have to reckon with Young, as he moves all over the defensive line. Expect him to go against Demar Dotson sometimes, which isn't necessarily a good thing: while Dotson is the Bucs' best lineman, he struggled mightily against a weak pass rush last week.
Mike Evans is really, really good. The Bears defense is not. They'll probably choose to put rookie Kyle Fuller on Evans, which is what they did when they faced Kelvin Benjamin. He's got decent size at 5'11", but he'll still be outmatched by the 6'5" rookie receiver. Fuller does have four interceptions this season, but he's a rookie on one of the worst pass defenses in the league. Those interceptions don't tell the tale of his play.
Fuller actually held Benjamin in check in week five, as the rookie put up just three catches for 38 yards. I wouldn't expect that to happen again, however. Evans is a better player than Benjamin, and Benjamin had several big drops over the course of that game.
Meanwhile, the Bucs have done a good job of getting Evans open deep, and giving him quality matchups. One way they've done that is to line him up in the slot, something the Panthers did with Benjamin to get him a few matchups against linebackers, too. Expect to see more of that on Sunday.
Did you know that safety Ryan Mundy is the leading tackler for the Chicago Bears? Despite the presence of Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams? Despite playing in a style of defense that usually favors linebackers as tacklers? Well, now you do.
The Bears don't play a complicated defense. It's very similar to Lovie Smith's defense, in fact. And that means they play a gap scheme against the run -- one where the safety will come down to fill the eighth gap, and apparently one where Ryan Mundy is the one to chase running backs down repeatedly.
And that means Charles Sims is going to have to make him miss. Sims has looked okay in the two games he's played. He's a smooth runner who fits the zone scheme well, can press the hole and make one cut and go. One thing he struggles with is to convert big holes into long gains: he had a tendency to get tripped up by a stray tackler just a yard shy of breaking a long one, and we saw the same thing last week.
It's on Sims to prevent that from happening. That means making Mundy miss, instead of having him make barely successful ankle tackles.
Here's your open thread for today.
Bucs' Michael Koenen Reveals Mystery Surrounding Punting Woes
Bucs punter Michael Koenen reveals why he hasn't looked like himself this season: He's been battling mononucleosis but is hopeful it's behind him
Four is a crowd in Tampa Bay Buccaneers' backfield - ESPN
Doug Martin's return from injury complicates playing time for team's running backs.
A 5-win team could mathematically win the NFC South - New Orleans Saints Blog - ESPN
ESPN Stats and Information broke down the possible scenarios, highlighting the division's futility this season.
Football Geekery: McCown Shines
Once again we channel our inner pigskin nerd and dive a little deeper into the stats to help illuminate Buc football...This week we look at an oddity from Josh McCown's Sunday performance and more
Verner Hoping to Return to Lineup
Starting LCB Alterraun Verner is one of four Bucs considered questionable to play in Chicago, but Verner is optimistic about getting back on the field after missing two games with a hamstring strain
SR's Fab 5: David Up Next For Big Contract; McDonald A Great Find For Bucs | Pewter Report
Lavonte David is the next Buc that deserves a big contract extension, Clinton McDonald is a great free agent find and 2-minute defensive woes in SR's Fab 5.
Bucs Remain Determined To Pound The Rock | Pewter Report
The Buccaneers ground attack has underwhelmed through 10 games and the team is looking to get back on track this Sunday in Chicago.
Hot Reads: Bucs have choices at running back | TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times
TAMPA — Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith might have a difficult decision to make at running back on Sunday.
Bucs notes: Defense looks to keep turnovers coming | TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times
TAMPA — Two early interceptions last week at Washington sparked the Bucs to a 10-point lead, and there figure to be more chances for takeaways Sunday when Tampa Bay heads to Soldier Field.
After long road to Bucs, Smith making most of his chances | TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times
Two years ago, linebacker Jacquies Smith was side-stepping snowdrifts in the CFL. But after disappointing turns with the Jets and Bills, he is becoming a key cog in the Bucs' defense.
Bucs' Lavonte David to be game-time decision | Tampa Bay Times
TAMPA — LB Lavonte David (hamstring) missed a second consecutive day of practice Friday, raising concerns that the NFL's co-leader in combined tackles could miss Sunday's game at Chicago.
With Doug Martin back, Bucs' backfield gets crowded | Tampa Bay Times
TAMPA — Before the season began, Bucs coach Lovie Smith was envisioning his team's offense with running back Doug Martin firmly entrenched as the bell-cow ball carrier.
Greg Cosell's Film Review: Robert Griffin III's fundamental issues | Shutdown Corner - Yahoo Sports
From Yahoo Sports: We’re going to examine Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III this week, and I want to show you one freeze frame of a play first.
The Chicago Bears are largely healthy, but the Bucs have a few key injuries.
Not all "questionables" are made equal, though. Doug Martin, Charles Sims and Alterraun Verner are all very likely to suit up and play on Sunday. They sounded optimistic in their locker room quotes, while Lovie Smith didn't sound overly concerned over them. Lavonte David's a different matter. Missing two practices is no small thing, and whether he can play on Sunday is a major question mark.
As for the Chicago Bears, they should have most of their key players available. Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall are both listed as Probable, while the three players who won't suit up on Sunday are not all that important to the overall team. Even Britton is questionable, but given the fact that his limitations are due to illness, he should almost certainly play.
|Player||No.||Pos.||Injury||Wed. Participation||Thurs. Participation||Fri. Participation||Game Status|
|Lavonte David||54||LB||Hamstring||Limited Participation||Did Not Participate||Did Not Participate||Questionable|
|Doug Martin||22||RB||Ankle||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Questionable|
|Charles Sims||34||RB||Ankle||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Questionable|
|Alterraun Verner||21||CB||Hamstring||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Questionable|
|Player||No.||Pos.||Injury||Wed. Participation||Thurs. Participation||Fri. Participation||Game Status|
|Eben Britton||62||G/T||Illness||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Questionable|
|Ego Ferguson||95||DT||Illness||Did Not Participate||Full Participation||Full Participation||Probable|
|Demontre Hurst||30||CB||Knee||Did Not Participate||Limited Participation||Questionable|
|Alshon Jeffery||17||WR||Hamstring||Did Not Participate||Limited Participation||Full Participation||Probable|
|Brandon Marshall||15||WR||Ankle||Did Not Participate||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Probable|
|Jordan Mills||67||T||Ribs||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Limited Participation||Questionable|
|Josh Morgan||19||WR||Shoulder||Limited Participation||Full Participation||Full Participation||Probable|
|Darryl Sharpton||53||LB||Hamstring||Did Not Participate||Did Not Participate||Did Not Participate||Out|
|Chris Williams||82||WR||Hamstring||Did Not Participate||Did Not Participate||Did Not Participate||Out|
|Trevor Scott||76||DE||Knee||Did Not Participate||Did Not Participate||Did Not Participate||Out|
Editor's Note: FanDuel is hosting a one-week $550,000 fantasy football league this weekend. It's $10 to join and first place wins $50,000. League starts Sunday 1 PM ET and ends on Monday night. Here's the link.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have new injury issues to deal with, and Lavonte David could miss a game for the first time in his NFL career.
Lavonte David missed his second consecutive day of practice with a hamstring injury, per Matt Baker, making it highly unlikely that the star linebacker will be able to suit up on Sunday. The Bucs will be hard-pressed to adequately replace their star linebacker, who's been a tackling machine and the glue that has held the ruins of a defense together. Without David, the run defense won't be close to what it was -- though the pass defense may be able to function adequately.
It's not clear who would replace David if he can't go. Danny Lansanah could slide over to weakside linebacker, with Dane Fletcher, Brandon Magee or new addition Orie Lemon taking over at strongside linebacker. Or one of the latter two could step in for David. Regardless, given the Bucs' penchant for keeping two linebackers on the field at all times, whoever replaces David is going to be on the field a lot -- and that could be a massive problem for the team's defense.
In slightly more positive news, Charles Sims didn't seem hampered by his ankle injury, and Doug Martin and Alterraun Verner appeared to be fully healthy, too, according to Greg Auman. Martin is likely to make his return after an injury-inflicted three-game absence on Sunday, but the heft of his workload has yet to be determined. Lovie Smith's remarks yesterday seemed to imply that they'd focus on giving Sims a bigger role in the gameplan, which means Martin will take a back seat to him and possibly Bobby Rainey, too.
To buy tickets, visit the NFL Ticket Exchange.
Good drafting and player development were keys in the Bucs’ turnaround and success in the 1990s, leading up to their Super Bowl XXXVII win. Looking back at the past two decades of personnel and roster decisions gives a better look at why the Bucs are rebuilding.
Editor's Note: Please welcome the newest contributor to Bucs Nation!
In the decade that Rich McKay served as GM, the team’s drafting was key to their reversal of fortunes. In his first draft as GM, McKay missed on the first three selections (Eric Curry, DeMetrius Dubose and Lamar Taylor), but hit big on a couple of mid- to late-round picks in John Lynch and Chidi Ahanotu. Although neither player may have looked like All-Pros within their first few years, they each played pivotal roles for the team. Over the next four years, although there were misses, the organization drafted the cornerstones of the franchise in two now Hall of Famers (Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp-1995) and two possibly future Hall of Famers in John Lynch (1993) and Ronde Barber (1997), along with players like Donnie Abraham and Mike Alstott (1996) and Warrick Dunn (1997).
The next four years of drafting brought in more role players, including Brian Kelly (1998), Super Bowl XXXVII MVP Dexter Jackson and Martin Gramatica (1999). Needless to say, this period of drafting was key in the success that followed. Not every pick was a hit. There were the players like Eric Curry and Marcus Jones—high draft picks who were more bust than boom—but the drafts (from 1993 to 1999) produced contributors for the Buccaneers’ roster, with many having key roles in the 2012 team’s 12-4 record and subsequent Super Bowl victory.
Since McKay's departure, the team has gone through two general managers in Bruce Allen and Mark Dominik. In that time period, the Buccaneers’ drafting was as horrid as their play has been this year. The first draft with Bruce Allen as GM netted Michael Clayton who, in his rookie year, looked like a star in the making…but everyone knows how that turned out. The next year’s draft saw the Bucs pick Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, who ultimately had a disappointing career due to several serious injuries, and Barrett Ruud—the only two players who had any level of significant success in that year’s haul of players for the Buccaneers.
The following year brought in two starters along the offensive line in Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood, along with a reserve wide receiver (Maurice Stovall) and a QB who racked up 11 starts in his rookie year (Bruce Gradkowski). The next two drafts saw the Bucs select exciting collegiate players like Gaines Adams and Aqib Talib, along with a couple of players (Dexter Jackson and Sabby Piscitelli) who, in their short tenures with the Buccaneers, were bad enough to make it onto JoeBucFan’s "Worst 20 Buccaneers Of The Past 10 Years." None of them are currently Buccaneers.
With the ousting of Jon Gruden, Bruce Allen was also dismissed, and in came Mark Dominik. For the five years that Dominik served as GM, Buccaneer fans were treated to possibly two of the worst head coaches in franchise history in Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano, who combined for a 28-52 record in that five-year period. As GM, Dominik became well-known for his team-friendly contracts, but also for handing out some undeserved contracts (i.e. Michael Clayton, Eric Wright) and, in large part, the draft was a colossal failure during his tenure. Not a single player from the Buccaneers’ 2009 draft class remains on the roster, and only Gerald McCoy remains from the 2010 class.
The following year brought in Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers, neither of whom has lived up to the team’s expectations. Their 19.5 sacks combined in four years has been equaled or bested by individual players in each of the past three seasons—Jared Allen (22) in 2011, JJ Watt (20.5) in 2012 and Robert Mathis (19.5) in 2013. Greg Schiano’s first draft looked great in the first year, with Mark Barron, Doug Martin and Lavonte David all looking like future stars. Fast forward two years later and David is the only one of the three likely to be on the roster in the 2015-16 season after Barron was traded to the Rams and Martin continues to disappoint. Then, of course, there was the one-year rental of Darrelle Revis that cost the Buccaneers a first-round draft pick in a draft that saw Kyle Long, Sheldon Richardson and Star Lotulelei go after the Bucs’ traded pick.
Lovie Smith’s return to the Buccaneers came with much anticipation. With the Buccaneers coming off a 5-year period of terrible head coaches and a 10-year period of horrendous player development, Smith inherited a team lacking substantial depth across the board. In his first year, Smith’s free agent signings could be described as disappointing, but that would be an understatement. The supposedly feared pass rusher has caused more fear in fans (because of his salary) than opposing linemen and QBs, and the play of his ex-Bengals teammate, Anthony Collins, has been equally as discouraging. The most consistent and best player on this offensive line happens to be the only member whose career began with the Buccaneers, while the other four have been regrettable acquisitions. While this season has been greatly disappointing, there’s virtually a zero percent chance that Smith won’t return as head coach next year.
With several virtually empty drafts that netted no impact players (on the current roster) sans McCoy and David, the team is low on talent. To make up for the dearth of talent, the Bucs have unsuccessfully attacked free agency, overpaying for B-level talent with expectations of them performing like A-level players—a trend that, in many fans’ eyes, has carried over into the Jason Licht-Lovie Smith regime; however, signings were almost necessary for the Bucs to have even the smallest chance of competing in 2014. Unfortunately, as stated earlier, those signing have not worked out this far.
Looking to the future, Smith must make some tough decisions regarding the coaching staff as well as the roster. Of the current coaches, it could be argued that interim offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo has been the least disappointing—that’s how inept the coaching has been for the Bucs. Leslie Frazier’s defensive unit has been on the wrong end of several records already, and the special teams unit has cost the team several games and has surrendered both a blocked field goal and blocked punt in the same game on two separate occasions. The offensive line has not grown and gelled the way one would hope, and the defensive line, sans McCoy, may be performing worse than any unit in the league.
Despite the misfortunes of this season, the fact is that any coach brought in to replace Schiano would have been facing tremendous odds. Licht and Smith were very vocal about their intentions of fielding a competitor this year, which hasn’t happened; however, failure to immediately fix the problems of past regimes should not be cause for them to be fired after just one year. It may be a long process to return the Bucs to relevancy, but it’s long overdue.
Here's your open thread for today.
Buccaneers vs. Bears preview - Chicago Bears Blog - ESPN
Bucs coach Lovie Smith returns to Chicago looking for a winning streak with the Bears coming off a win of their own.
Bucs Banking On Banks To Help Contain Bears Receivers | Pewter Report
Johnthan Banks has continued to progress and is coming off his best performance in Washington last Sunday.
Bucs notes: No plans to abandon run-first philosophy | TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times
Coach Lovie Smith's preference is to move the ball on the ground, but the Bucs have struggled to do that over the past eight weeks.
Bucs Hot Reads: QB McCown recalls Chicago freeze | TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times
Bucs QB Josh McCown has mostly good memories of the two seasons he played for the Bears in Chicago. One of them is virtually frozen in his brain.
McCown returns to Chicago after another comeback | TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times
TAMPA — Before the season, he was supposed to be the bridge to the future. Then the season began and he was the bridge to nowhere.
Bucs' Leslie Frazier has long history with Bears | Tampa Bay Times
TAMPA — Lovie Smith and Josh McCown have the most high-profile homecomings Sunday as the Bucs play at Chicago. But defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has no shortage of familiarity with the Bears himself.
Scouting Report, Week 12: Will Jay Cutler carve up Bucs? | Tampa Bay Times
A win changes everything.Sunday morning, a team can't do a single thing well. By Sunday night, they're headed in the right direction. Demands for a new head coach become appeals for patience. The starting quarterback isn't emotional and mediocre; he's passionate and productive.
(AUDIO) RGIII Is Playing As Poorly As Any QB In The NFL " CBS Tampa
Greg Cosell from NFL Films joined Justin today to discuss the Buccaneers win from this past Sunday, and said there were a lot of good things to take away from the team's performance. One of the things obviously that stood out during the game was Mike Evans.
England has a very real passion for "American football," but that doesn't mean the UK wants their own team.