Enter Lovie Smith and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the scene at Soldier Field for this big NFC matchup.
The Bears (4-6) are holding on to their slim postseason chances with six games remaining on tap.
Coming into this season, the Lovie-Bears reunion was one of the most talked about matchups. However, since the Bears have been utterly disappointing and the Bucs for the most part haven’t been good at all this game is flying under-the-radar.
It will be quite strange to see Lovie on the opposite sidelines in Bucs gear, but once the game settles in it will be just another game.
Second-year Bears coach Marc Trestman needs this one badly. Not for his own confidence, but possibly for his job status.
I don’t know if he is really in jeopardy to lose his job if the Bears lose this game and fail to make the playoffs. But this one is important. You never want your predecessor to beat you at your place.
The Bears’ home crowd should be wild for this one. Expect a warm welcome for Lovie and Josh McCown.
The Bears can’t be distracted by the reunion. This is a week-by-week process that starts with the Bucs and they can’t look past that at all. This is a huge game for so many reasons.
These are five players to watch when the Bears host the Bucs at Solider Field on Sunday
The 12-year veteran played sound football in a much-needed home win over Minnesota last Sunday. He had four tackles and a pass deflection and looked much like his old self throughout the game. The four tackles were the most for him since a Week 5 let down loss in Carolina. Briggs has talked up his former coach Lovie Smith plenty this week and you have to bet that this will be a big game for him. He will try to prove Smith his worth in one last meeting. Expect Briggs to be flying around in this NFC clash.
Conte looked slightly improved last week as the Bears’ defense stepped up and held their opponent to a season-low 13 points. The 25-year-old Cal product had four tackles and was not a problem in the Bears’ scheme much. A lot of that had to do with Teddy Bridgewater’s conservative day as a passer and Minnesota’s lack of time on offense. Nevertheless Conte seemed to be in position more often than not something he’ll need to be to help corners Tim Jennings and Kyle Fuller on Sunday over the top.
Jeffery has yet to post back-to-back 100 plus yard receiving yard games this season. Interestingly enough he added 105 receiving yards in Week 3, 136 yards in Week 6 and 135 yards in last week’s game. So the gap between his best games have been relatively wide this season. That should change on Sunday as Jay Cutler made it a priority to get his big receivers the ball early and often including Brandon Marshall and Jeffery. Jeffery was targeted a team-high 16 times, reeling in 11 passes. Look for the Bears to be creative with Jeffery, he has only six carries on the season, but he needs to be used as a mismatch throughout the game.
After recording 16 turnovers (13 INTs, 3 forced fumbles) in 30 games over the previous two seasons for the Bears, Jennings has been quiet racking up just one forced fumble this season. The Bears’ defensive struggles surely haven’t helped Jennings in his pursuit, but it would be hard to see him not get an interception over the next six weeks. Since becoming a full-time starter with the Bears in 2010, Jennings has at least an interception in every season played. He will likely be matched up with Vincent Jackson this Sunday, which could bode well for the 30-year-old Georgia product.
Paea has a career-high four sacks this season after generating six in 24 starts the previous three seasons. The 26-year-old will be a free agent at the end of the season and will certainly improve his value moving forward if he can finish this season strong. He’s failed to record a tackle the past two weeks, but the Bucs have allowed the second-most quarterback hits (67) and 10th most sacks (27) through 11 games. Look for Paea to have a nice game against a weak Bucs offensive line and running game.
Thoughts on the five players to watch? Make sure to leave a comment below.
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