A year after Bears’ big receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery combined for 2,716 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns, the NFL took notice. Specifically the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With 6-foot-5 Vincent Jackson already in the fold, the Bucs led by new general manager Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith decided to add another monster receiver in 6-5 Mike Evans.
Tampa Bay selected Evans No. 7 overall in this past year’s draft and he’s been well worth the investment. He’s the first rookie since Minnesota’s Randy Moss (1998) to record 100 plus receiving yards and a touchdown in three consecutive games.
Evans hauled in seven receptions for 209 yards and two touchdowns in a much-needed road win last week against the Redskins. His 209 receiving yards were the second-most by a rookie receiver in NFL history.
The Bucs were smart to try to replicate what the Bears have in their receiving corps with Jeffery who is 6-3 and Marshall who is 6-4. Not only in terms of size, but also in the production mentioned above which was very impressive.
Bucs v.s. Bears top two receivers by the numbers
Evans and Jackson combined: 89 receptions, 1,355 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns
Jeffery and Marshall combined: 104 receptions, 1,347 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns
Evans: 46 receptions, 794 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns (all team-highs)
Jackson: 43 receptions, 561 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns
Jeffery: 55 receptions, a team-high 761 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns
Marshall: 49 receptions, 586 receiving yards, a team-high 8 touchdowns
By looking at the numbers the success looks very similar between the Bucs top two targets and the Bears’ top two targets.
However, the Bears’ offense is much more powerful than the inconsistent Bucs.
Bears’ tight end Martellus Bennett is second in receiving touchdowns (5), receiving yards (591) and third in receptions (53). Versatile back Matt Forte leads all Bears pass catchers with 67 receptions and is currently fourth in receiving yards (575) and receiving touchdowns (3).
Tampa Bay has speed back Bobby Rainey, receiver Louis Murphy Jr. and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who all have 200 plus receiving yards and a combined five receiving scores.
The Bears are legitimately four deep in terms of playmakers in their passing game, while the Bucs have Evans and Jackson and a slowly rising tight end in Seferian-Jenkins.
Heading into Sunday’s matchup, the Bears’ passing offense ranks 10th overall with roughly 260 yards per game, while Tampa Bay is 19th with around 227 yards per week.
Former Bear Josh McCown has returned from a thumb injury to make two straight starts for the Bucs. He’s tossed 280 or more yards in both of those games against two weak pass defenses in Atlanta and Washington.
McCown started the first three games of the season, losing all three and failing to compile more than 200 yards in any of those games. He has six touchdowns and six interceptions in five starts this season.
Cutler will have his top four targets healthy including his big receivers Marshall and Jeffery, while McCown will have Evans and Jackson at his disposal in this NFC clash.
Which tandem will outshine the other in this must-win game?
Both teams are still mathematically alive in the NFC playoff hunt. As strange as it sounds since the Bears sit at 4-6 and the Bucs are 2-8.
But you never know what can happen with six regular season games left in the season.
Thoughts on this key matchup? Make sure to comment below.
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