Brian Griese and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to Chicago this weekend in what is sure to be an epically mediocre matchup. The former Chicago Bear, Griese, will undoubtedly be as average for the Bucs as he was for the Bears.
Chicago starter Kyle Orton is sure to provide much of the same mediocre play this weekend that fans have seen in the first two weeks of the season.
The Bucs will bring in a balanced offensive attack to Chicago this Sunday. Their offense averages 331.5 yards per game, which gives them the No. 12 offense in the NFL. The Bucs are averaging 176.5 yards per game through the air, which is good enough for the No. 16 ranking.
Meanwhile, they average 155.0 yards per game on the ground, which gives them the No. 7 spot.
The Bucs' defense is another story.
While not having the reputation of the Warren Sapp, John Lynch, and Derrick Brooks-led Super Bowl teams, the Buccaneers will still give the Bears a run for their money. The Bucs come in giving up 16.5 points per game on defense, which gives them the No. 8 ranking in the NFL.
The Bucs on average are giving opponents' passing games 336.0 yards per game, which is the 23rd best in the NFL so far, while giving up 103.0 yards per game on the ground.
This should be the area that the Bears try to attack, as the Buccaneers have Phillip Buchannon at one corner, and he's not known for being a shutdown corner. The Bears may have an advantage by lining up Brandon Lloyd or splitting Greg Olsen out to gain the matchup.
The Bears' offense comes into this week's game averaging 287.5 total yards per game, which makes them the 24th rated offense in the league. The total yards per game are broken down this way. The 138.5 yards per game through the air gives the Bears the 27th-most potent air attack. The running game is averaging 149.0 yards per game, giving them the ninth-best running attack.
The defense, while not looking like the dominant force most are accustomed to yet, are still pretty damn good. The Bears' defense is giving up 254.5 total yards per game, good enough for the sixth-best defense in the league so far.
Teams have been averaging 171.0 passing yards per game, ranking the Bears the 11th-best defense against the pass, while giving up only 83.5 rushing yards per game, garnering them the No. 8 spot for teams against the run.
Some possible areas of concern for the Bucs include the first start of the season for Brian Griese. While usually not a liabilty on offense, he is not Joe Montana or John Elway. He poses no threat with the run, so the Bears' defense should have the green light for blitzing.
Joey Galloway may not play because of what is listed as a foot injury, which is going to be a problem for the Bucs when and if they try to stretch the field on the Bears. This will possibly make for short throws, comebacks, curls, and slants to be thrown against the Bears.
Derrick Brooks will be a game time-decision due to a hamstring injury, but I don't expect the seasoned veteran to sit willingly. I still remember Brooks getting interceptions and limping during the returns while he had a bad wheel a few seasons ago.
The Bears have a few concerns as well. Devin Hester's playing status would probably be the main concern for most Bears fans. Kyle Orton has yet to set the world on fire while somehow becoming more average than he looked in the preseason.
Greg Olsen must retain the football once he has caught it, as giveaways on offense swing field position and the Bears can ill afford to give away precious field position.
One area that I thought could use a little working out by the Bears' defense was the way they are implementing the bluff blitz, which they are calling the "mug" look. It appears that the Bears' linebackers approach the line a second late when blitzing, which a second is all that most quarterbacks in the NFL need, regardless of whether they are named Brady or Griese.
When or if the Bucs take a down field shot, I would expect that it would come when the Bears are trying to blitz while in the "mug" look. Should the Bucs not decide to throw the ball over 30 yards downfield, then the "mug" look would be susceptible in another way, and that is when the linebackers approach the line a second late, Griese will hit the slant or curl route behind the vacated linebackers.
With all this being said, I predict the Bears/Bucs game will come down to which team isn't mediocre the longest.
If Ron Turner can come up with some plays that will actually intimidate an opposing team's defense, the Bears should win by a score of 23-20 or 17-14. If Turner keeps calling the same old plays, then the Tampa defenders will creep closer to the line of scrimmage, trying to stuff Matt Forte and the running game.
Hopefully Mr. Orton can establish some type of connection with a receiver this week, which will hopefully keep Forte fresh through the fourth quarter.
Mediocre is the name of this week's matchup for the Bears, and I for one hope they don't live up to the name. My optimism for the Bears never wanes but remains an objective person. This week's game could be a sign of things to come if the Bears can't beat an average team like the Bucs.
This is where it starts for the Bears. If they can't step up and break the will of mediocre teams, like they should have done last week against Carolina, then they will not be able to compete with the elites of the NFC and may end up watching the playoffs with the rest of the public on their Lazy Boys.
It's time for the Bears to play like the Monsters of the Midway on BOTH sides of the ball! The offense can only be blamed for so long. Good luck this week, stay healthy, and kick some Buccaneers behind! Go Bears!