The Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin the 2017 season in earnest on Sunday after Hurricane Irma threatened the Sunshine State last weekend, prompting the NFL to postpone the team’s regularly scheduled opener. Tampa Bay will see a familiar face on the opposing sideline when it welcomes former Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon and the Chicago Bears to Raymond James Stadium.
Jameis Winston (4,090 passing yards, 28 TDs in 2016) vies to shake off the rust of being idle since Tampa Bay’s third preseason game as he looks to regain his chemistry with Mike Evans (96 receptions, 1,321 yards, 13 TDs) and forge a new bond with offseason acquisition DeSean Jackson. “It’s not like we forgot how to play football,” Evans said of the layoff. “I think at the end of the day, we’ll be all right.” Winston’s selection as the top overall pick of the 2015 draft essentially signaled the beginning of the end for Glennon with the Buccaneers, but the 27-year-old signed a three-year, $45 million contract with Chicago in the offseason. Glennon completed 26 of 40 passes for 213 yards last Sunday, but a dropped pass by Jordan Howard in the waning moments proved costly as the Bears’ bid for an upset of Super Bowl finalist Atlanta fell short in a 23-17 setback.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Buccaneers -7. O/U: 43
ABOUT THE BEARS (0-1): Howard was limited to just 52 yards last week, although 5-foot-6, 181-pound rookie Tarik Cohen provided a spark in his NFL debut with 113 scrimmage yards (66 rushing, 47 receiving) to go along with a touchdown. Cohen also had a team-high eight receptions and may need to continue to play a significant role in the passing game with former first-round pick Kevin White (shoulder) joining fellow wideout Cameron Meredith (ACL) with season-ending injuries. Kendall Wright, who led Chicago wide receivers with three catches last week, will assume the No. 1 role with capable tight end Zach Miller lending a hand as well.
ABOUT THE BUCCANEERS (2016: 9-7, 2nd in NFC South): Gerald McCoy wasn’t overly concerned about his teammates answering the bell on Sunday, even though it would mark 31 days between games for most of the starters. “We’re professionals,” said McCoy, who has registered seven-plus sacks in four consecutive seasons. “A lot of guys in this locker room make a lot of money to be poised. There’s a lot of guys in this locker room that make a lot of money to not let that get to you. There’s a lot of coaches upstairs that make a lot of money to not have excuses as well.” Tight end Cameron Brate, who hails from Naperville, Ill., reeled in a 10-yard touchdown reception in Tampa Bay’s 36-10 win over Chicago on Nov. 13.
1. Chicago LB Jerrell Freeman, the team’s leading tackler in 2016, was placed on injured reserve after tearing his pectoral muscle in the season opener.
2. Buccaneers DE Robert Ayers recorded 1.5 of his 6.5 sacks in 2016 in last season’s game against the Bears.
3. Chicago DE Akiem Hicks, who collected two sacks and three tackles last week, will look to get the jump on Tampa Bay RG J.R. Sweezy, who is making his first start after spending last season on injured reserve.
PREDICTION: Buccaneers 23, Bears 14