1. QB Tom Brady
After winning the Super Bowl last season, I'm not saying Brady has some sort of revenge to get against the Bears after the Bucs lost to Chicago in Week Four and Brady infamously got confused on what down it was toward the end of the game. But I'm not not saying it, either, given Brady's propensity for finding motivation in anything he possibly can.
Realistically, Brady's stats against the Bears heavily favor him in the six times he's faced them. He averages 308 passing yards per game, scoring a total of 15 touchdowns with an overall quarterback rating of 105.3. His only loss was that from last season.
But anything can happen – even with the Bears averaging 16.3 points per game to the Bucs' 32.5. This is one of four matchups between 2020 playoff teams in Week Seven. Yeah, remember? The Bears went to the playoffs last year.
2. DL Ndamukong Suh
Brady may have only faced the Bears six times in his career but former Detroit Lion Ndamukong Suh has double those matchups against his former division rivals. In 12 games against Chicago, Suh totaled 8.0 sacks, 19 quarterback hits, a forced fumble and eight tackles for loss. The Bears' offensive line is letting up the most sacks in the league, letting opposing defensive lines get the better of them 22.0 times. And none of those defensive lines have included Suh. And Vita Vea. And Will Gholston. Or had guys like Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul or Joe Tryon on the edge.
You get it.
Plus, Suh is part of a run-stopping effort that will be needed against the Bears. The good news is – they're excelling. Tampa Bay's defense has allowed the fewest rush yards through six games of any defense in the last 20 years. That's bad news (for the) Bears, who rely heavily on their ground game.
View some of the top photos from Buccaneers practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.
3. OLB Shaq Barrett
Speaking of one of those edge guys, Barrett quietly leads the Bucs in sacks this season with 4.0 so far. Against a struggling offensive line, Barrett could find himself with some opportunity this Sunday. He's on 10 days rest, at that.
Not only that, but without even being the starter through the first full six games, Fields is the second-most sacked quarterback behind only Tennessee's Ryan Tannehill. Fields has been sacked 18.0 times this season. Now couple that with the fact that the Bucs are blitzing at the second-highest clip in the league at 37.3% of opponent dropbacks. They pressure quarterbacks on 37.8% of those blitzes, which is the fifth-highest rate this season. The Bucs are only averaging 2.0 sacks per game though, which ranks 20th league-wide, but this is a chance for the pass rush to get home more than they have so far this season and pad those averages. Barrett could lead that effort.
4. CB Jamel Dean
Even if the pass rush effort doesn't pay off for the defensive front, it could for the defensive backfield. Fields has the lowest completion rate against the blitz, the lowest passer rating against the blitz and has the 30th-ranked touchdown to interception ratio against the blitz in the league. Couple that with the fact that according to NFL Next Gen Stats, Fields throws into the most tight windows and his receivers have the lowest average separation per target in the NFL. Bears receivers have just 2.8 yards of separation on average from the nearest defender, which in turn forces Fields to throw into tight windows 24.1% of the time.
That's the perfect storm for some picks, if you ask me.
Dean has had an interception in each of his last two games and is eyeing a third. That would be the first time he's done that in his career; NFL, college, high school or otherwise. It could also provide an opportunity for the Bucs' defensive backfield as a whole, who has been steadily getting better despite losing three starting cornerbacks and starting safety. They've allowed fewer and fewer passing yards as the weeks have gone on – especially in the last four games. After allowing 331 in Los Angeles, they allowed 295 in New England, 262 at home against Miami and 113 in Philly. The unit once ranked dead last in the league is now slowly climbing up the ranks and now sits at 27th, allowing an average of 280.8 passing yards per game. That average goes down to 223.3 over the last three games, which ranks top ten in the league in that span.
So not only could Dean do something he's never done, but the unit as a whole could make some major strides.
5. RB Leonard Fournette
While I expect Brady's numbers to be a bit gaudier than last season against Chicago (if you remember, it was a back and forth kicking battle between Ryan Succop and former Bucs kicker Cairo Santos for most of the game), I wouldn't discount the Bucs' steadily improving ground game. Even last season, running back Ronald Jones had 17 carries for 106 yards for a 6.24 yard per carry average. He also managed three first downs.
Fournette has clearly had the hot hand lately, though. He has the third-most scrimmage yards in the NFL since Week Four – only Tennessee's Derrick Henry and Indy's Jonathan Taylor have more – and is averaging 125.3 all-purpose yards in his last three games.
The Bears are letting up an average of 112.2 rushing yards per game and rank 16th against the run. They do slightly better against the pass, ranking eighth and letting 218.7 yards go through the air per game.