Bears

Bears-Buccaneers: Best case, worst case and prediction

The best case scenario

This starts with a Bears defense that doesn’t play like the one that allowed 36 points to Tampa Bay last year. Even without Jerrell Freeman, the front seven overwhelms the Buccaneers’ offensive line and renders useless the run game — which will roll with Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims without the suspended Doug Martin. Making Tampa Bay’s offense one-dimensional will help the front seven get more pressure on Winston, who’s thrown 33 interceptions in the last two years. You can see where this is going: More pressure on a turnover-prone quarterback leads to at least one takeaway for the Bears’ defense. 

Offensively, the Bears lean on Jordan Howard (who’s questionable with a shoulder issue) and he has a big game — think at least 100 rushing yards — a week after only carrying the ball 13 times. Zach Miller and Dion Sims get involved early and often, as does Kendall Wright, and Tarik Cohen again makes a few “wow” plays when he gets in space. And Mike Glennon, motivated against his former team, plays mistake-free football again, as he did for the most part against Atlanta in Week 1. 

If the Bears are going to win their first game in September under John Fox, it’ll be a close one — but winning the turnover battle will swing this game in favor of the Bears. 

The worst case scenario

Even if the Bucs can’t run the ball, Winston is able to get the ball to his two star receivers — Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson — eventually leaving tight ends Cameron Brate and/or O.J. Howard open for some explosive plays. The Bears are able to pressure Winston but can’t bring him down, and we see a reprise of that 43-yard touchdown to Freddie Martino from last year’s game. And Winston takes care of the ball or, perhaps worse, the Bears' defense doesn't take advantage of the mistakes he makes. 

On offense, Glennon throws his first interception of the year and his pass-catchers struggle to get open. Tampa Bay loads the box and, behind defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, shuts down Howard and the Bears' run game. Cohen is able to make a few plays, but it's not enough as John Fox is denied his first win in September as coach of the Bears. 

Prediction: Bears 23, Buccaneers 21. This one trends more toward the best case than the worst case, with Howard having a strong game and the Bears' secondary notching its first (and, maybe, second) interception of the year.