The last matchup between the two NFC teams came in Week Three of the 2008 season. The Bucs came away with the 27-24 OT win. The Bears blew a 24-14 fourth quarter and watched the Bucs score 13 straight points to win the game.
Bears head coach Lovie Smith is 2-2 all-time against the Bucs. However, this will be the first time Bucs head coach Raheem Morris will coach against the Bears.
In one career game against the Bucs, Bears RB Matt Forte rushed for 89 yards, and reeled in seven passes for 66 yards and one touchdown.
The Bucs have allowed an average of 114 yards rushing per game. That could be a good thing for the Bears, who have averaged 103 yards rushing per game so far this season.
The running game is always a key for the Bears, but the passing game could be the bigger reason they come away with a win today.
Jay Cutler excelled in the offensive game plan that was called up last Sunday night by Mike Martz.
The screen game will likely be an added plus for the Bears today, like it has been all season. The Bears have completed 19 of 22 screen passes for 186 yards. Only six teams have more screen yards.
Dane Sanzenbacher, Roy Williams and Johnny Knox will be key targets for the Bears on offense. Devin Hester might not get a lot of snaps on offense considering he is coming off a chest injury. Look for the Bears to try to use him in the return game more than offense.
The offensive line played much better last Sunday night and they could again have success playing against a Bucs defense that has only eight sacks all year.
Julius Peppers and the Bears defense contained Vikings QB Donovan McNabb last Sunday night. In 15 career games against the Bucs, Peppers has 15.5 sacks, one interception and three forced fumbles.
Coming of arguably his best game this season, Peppers could be in line for another nice game against a banged up Bucs offensive line.
Lovie Smith liked how the defense played last week, but he wants to see them force more turnovers. Lance Briggs and Co. need to find ways to create turnovers and stall drives.
It will be interesting to see what decision the Bears make in the secondary. Major Wright suddenly popped up on the injury report this past Thursday with a hip injury, so veteran Chris Harris took the first team snaps in practice.
Wright returned to practice, but coaches could turn to a three safety rotation with Chris Conte also in the mix.
The key for this Bears defense is to win the battle at the trenches, Julius Peppers will handle his own, but other defensive linemen need to step it up.
Rookie Stephen Paea had a sack in his NFL debut last Sunday, Henry Melton has been invisible and dominant at times, and Israel Idonije has been consistent enough.
Players Who Must Step Up:
1) Chris Conte- The rookie safety had a pretty solid game last Sunday night against the Vikings. He will be used on some safety blitzes and will come into the box as the eight man. He is a smart and athletic safety, who could put up a decent amount of tackles today.
Prediction: Seven tackles, one interception.
2) D.J. Moore- He came very close to an interception last Sunday night. He will be hungry to force a turnover today. Considering the Bears are only plus two in the turnover margin, the defense will be flying around and Moore is one of those beneficiaries of the efforts on defense.
Prediction: Four tackles, fumble recovery.
3) Johnny Knox- He has yet to reel in a touchdown pass this season. He’s averaging about 50 ypg receiving. He needs a big game and the Bears want to get him the ball. He could be very good if he takes advantage of the space in the Bucs defense.
Prediction: Five catches, 64 yards.
Bears 23, Bucs 17.