While there are officially no homecoming games in the NFL, a lot of players will return to a place they once called home when the Chicago Bears visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Current Bear kicker Connor Barth, long snapper Andrew DePaola, quarterback Mike Glennon, tight end Zach Miller, and offensive lineman Bradley Sowell all spent some time with the Buccaneers.
The Bears will try to avoid going 0-2 on the season (and against NFC South teams). The Buccaneers, who had an unscheduled bye last week because of Hurricane Irma, will make their season debut Sunday.
Here are five things to watch when the Bears take on the Buccaneers:
Can Buccaneers handle the hype?
The Buccaneers’ offseason moves have been heavily praised. Emerging from the “Hard Knocks” spotlight, the Buccaneers will try to build off last season to make a playoff run. In the past, the Buccaneers have not been able to handle success. This year they believe will be different. With quarterback Jameis Winston in his third season, Pro Bowl receiver Mike Evans getting some help from DeSean Jackson, and with T.J. Ward and Chris Baker now on defense, the Buccaneers are league darlings. It’s time to prove their worth.
The Mike Glennon saga
Glennon was the starting quarterback for the Buccaneers in his rookie season before he lost his job to veteran Josh McCown. Then the Buccaneers drafted Winston and Glennon sat for the majority of last season. A free agent, Glennon signed with the Bears only to have Chicago take Mitch Trubisky with the second pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. It’s not a matter of if Glennon will hand the reins to Trubinsky, just when. Glennon is trying to make sure it’s down the road. Still, emotions will be running high as he returns to the face the team which drafted him. Can he subdue those emotions and lead his team to victory?
Who runs for Bucs?
With Doug Martin serving the second of his four-game suspension, the Buccaneers will likely use a running back-by-committee approach. Jacquizz Rodgers will get the start, with Charles Sims and Peyton Barber ready to assist. Rodgers had two 100-yard games last season but also dealt with some injuries. During the preseason, the Buccaneers averaged 3.7 yards per carry. They need to get the running game going in order to set up their play-action passing attack. If not, the offense could struggle.
Who will catch the ball for Chicago?
Josh Bellamy (ankle) and Markus Wheaton (finger) were limited this week with injuries. With Kevin White on injured reserve, the Bears have called up undrafted rookie Tanner Gentry from the practice squad. Also expect Tre McBride, who was acquired after Tennessee waived him, to get some time. The Bears were led last week by rookie running back Tarik Cohen in rushing yards (66), receptions (8) and receiving yards (47).
Buccaneers must improve in red zone
The Buccaneers struggled scoring touchdowns in the red zone in 2016, finishing 20th in the NFL. They are facing a Bear squad that was ninth in the league in red zone defense. Last week against the Atlanta Falcons, the Bears allowed only one touchdown in three red zone trips.
The Buccaneers scored just three touchdowns in four preseason games. Tampa Bay has to do a better job at punching in touchdowns rather than settling for three points. It could be the difference between a win and a loss.
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