The Chicago Bears are looking to rebound after losing in a close game to the Atlanta Falcons. Additionally, these Bears are looking for redemption as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rolled over Chicago in Week 10 last season 36-10.
When looking at both rosters and comparing them to one another, there are matchups at every level worth keeping an eye on. However, when you boil it down to which ones will have the greatest impact, you’ll see that the majority of those come at the line of scrimmage.
Here’s a look at five matchups that will play a major role on Sunday in Tampa Bay.
1. Leonard Floyd vs Donovan Smith
Floyd had a tough outing in Week 1 in terms of his pass rush. That was due to a mix of the second-year pro being asked to drop back in coverage, and also Atlanta doing a decent job of slowing him down. Hopefully, that will change this week.
Smith did not have a good 2016 season and was ranked as PFF’s 66th ranked tackle. He’s slow off the ball and is sluggish to get into his protection stance. That’s good news for Floyd and the Bears. In fact, when Floyd is squared up against Smith, I expect to see his elite-speed on display.
Last year, Floyd had his way with this offensive line as he finished with 1.5 sacks. I don’t expect anything different this week, especially when he’s coming off that right edge.
Edge: Leonard Floyd
2. Marcus Cooper vs Mike Evans
It doesn’t appear that Prince Amukamara is ready for game action just yet, so it’ll be on Cooper to shut down the Buccaneers’ No. 1 wideout in Evans. Cooper did a phenomenal job last week going toe-to-toe with Julio Jones, limiting the superstar to only four catches and 66 yards.
But the question is whether or not Cooper can play to that caliber in consecutive weeks. He will have his hands full with Evans who has outstanding size and length. He’s a physical receiver with great hands and knows how to get the football at its highest point.
In terms of talent, Evans has the definite edge. However, when it comes to sheer will and determination, Cooper can make up for the lack of natural abilities.
Edge: Mike Evans
3.Quintin Demps vs Cameron Brate
Even though the Bears did a solid job on the outside last week against the Falcons, the middle of the defense was a letdown. That was evident by Austin Hooper’s two big catches including that 88-yard touchdown in which he was wide-open. With linebacker Jerrell Freeman on injured reserve, the pressure to cover tight ends shifts to another veteran in Demps.
He will have his hands full with Brate (not to mention OJ Howard) on Sunday. Last season, Brate tore up the Bears’ defense by catching all seven of the balls thrown his way, all of which moved the sticks. Demps will be tested as Brate will be working the seams early and often.
Don’t forget that Brate is also a monster of a red zone threat. He tied for a team-high 19 targets in the red zone (caught 12 of them) last season. Plus, all 10 of his touchdowns came down there as well.
Edge: Cameron Brate
4. Akiem Hicks vs J.R. Sweezy
Did you know that Akiem Hicks is on pace to rack up 32 sacks this season? Well, that’s what happens when you get two (both coming in the fist half) right out of the gate. He’s becoming ever more dominant, which is going to be more important as we move on without Freeman.
Sweezy is making his Buccaneers’ debut as he missed all of last season with a back injury that required surgery. Before then, he was a Seahawk, and in his last full season of action, he only had a 51 overall grade according to PFF. Sweezy is known for his run-blocking prowess but tends to struggle in pass protection.
Expect rust to be a factor here for Sweezy. He was limited throughout camp in the preseason as the Bucs wanted to be cautious. He hasn’t seen game speed in quite awhile, and Hicks’ relentless style of play should be enough to overpower the guard.
Edge: Akiem Hicks
5. Josh Sitton vs Gerald McCoy
This is going to be a dogfight all game long. These are two of the best at their respective positions, and is a matchup that I’m going to thoroughly enjoy watching.
Both are considered elite players. McCoy often lines up across the right guard, so he will be right in Sitton’s crosshairs. Even though the Bears will surely double team him from time to time, as McCoy’s quickness is off the charts and his pass-rush ability is one to fear.
The good news is Sitton is no slouch. He’s been one of the league’s best pass protectors for quite some time now, and he should be up for the challenge.
Edge: Josh Sitton