As the Bears prepare to go into the bye week, hopefully at 3-1, there are still a lot of unknowns.
- When will the game start to slow down for Mitch Trubisky?
- When is this offense going to start carrying its fair share of the load?
- When will James Daniels crack the starting lineup?
There a lot of questions that are fair to ask at this point of the season.
One thing that doesn’t need to be questioned, however, is the dominant defense that has emerged here early into the 2018 season. The Bears defense finds itself in the top five of every important defensive category early on. The Bears are in first place in sacks with 14, tied for third place with five interceptions and are in first place with seven forced fumbles (although they have only recovered three).
The defense, which was already an ascending unit, has been bolstered by the addition of Roquan Smith and Khalil Mack. By any measure, this is at a minimum a top-five unit that has been terrorizing opposing QB’s. What is even scarier for opposing offenses is that this defensive unit is only going to get better.
As Mack continues to work his way into game shape after missing much of the offseason and Roquan does the same, we should see this unit continue to gel and improve. Leonard Floyd should only become more effective when the cast he has been forced to wear for the first three games finally comes off. With a terrifying front seven and a secondary containing a few playmakers by their own right, this unit sees the sky as the limit.
Strength vs Strength
While the Bears have faced arguably two of the top-five quarterbacks in the league in Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, Sunday they don’t exactly get a break. Tampa Bay, which has been one of the surprise teams early on, leads the league in total offense with 473.3 yards per game. Averaging a staggering 400 yards per game through the air, we can expect the secondary to get tested like they haven’t been up to this point in the season.
This Sunday the Bears have a chance to prove that they have an elite defense as the unit tries to slow down one of the NFL’s hottest offenses. It is strength against strength as the Bears see if they are the team they can shut down “Fitzmagic.”
Keys to Success
I expect Tampa Bay to score as they have been doing so at a pretty frantic pace this season. Though, I also expect the Buccaneers to turn it over. Fitzpatrick is going to sling it around Sunday afternoon, which should give the Bears’ secondary plenty of opportunities to make plays on the ball.
With four interceptions in three games and a turnover differential of -1, the Buccaneers will provide the opportunities for the Bears’ defense to continue taking the ball away. The Bears are going to have to use their dominant front seven to force Fitzpatrick to make some bad decisions. If the front seven can do that, and the secondary can take advantage of it, that will go a long way to helping the Bears pull out the win Sunday.
On the other side of the ball, the Bears are going to need to score points. The Bears’ two wins this year have come from sheer force of will on the defensive side of the ball. I don’t think that will be enough Sunday. If the Bears are going to improve to 3-1, they are going to need the offense to put points on the board.
If there was a week for the offense to break out, this would be it. With a depleted secondary that wasn’t made up of world-beaters to begin with, Trubisky and company should have ample opportunities to make up for lost time against this Buccaneers team.
I have been one to preach patience given a set of circumstances that certainly warrants it when it comes to the offensive side of the ball, however, Sunday should provide the best opportunity yet for this offense to give us a glimpse of what it might be.