The Chicago Bears are in first place in the NFC North, and will hope to stay there as they take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon.
The Bears, who picked up a narrow win over the Arizona Cardinals a week ago, are preparing to head into their bye week, but standing in their way is one of the league’s most potent offenses.
Here are five players for fans to keep an eye on as the two one-time division rivals tangle on the lakefront:
Burton has nine catches so far this season, but he hasn’t been fully installed as a huge threat in the team’s offense. He could potentially look to break out against the Bucs Sunday, but in facing Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander, he could have his hands full, and it will be fascinating to see how the Buccaneers attack him.
The club is gone and the brace is now on his hand after he suffered a preseason injury, so look for Floyd to be more active in attacking whichever quarterback the Buccaneers start. Whether it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick or Jameis Winston, Floyd and the Bears’ pass rush will need to continue to get pressure on the quarterback to slow down the potent Tampa Bay offense.
With Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper Sr. both out due to injuries, Fuller will likely draw the job of having to deal with Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans during the game Sunday. Kevin Toliver II will have to deal with whichever receiver Fuller doesn’t cover, as DeSean Jackson is also a bonafide threat to go long, and the Bears’ secondary will be in for its biggest test of the season thus far in this game.
There is one surefire way in the NFL to keep an opposing team’s offense off the field: run the ball, run the clock. That is what Howard and Tarik Cohen will need to do on Sunday, and if the Bears can establish their run game, then they will take a big heap of pressure off a defense that is dealing with some key absences in the secondary.
Speaking of absences, wide receiver Anthony Miller will miss Sunday’s game with a separated shoulder, and that could mean more snaps for Kevin White in the slot. Mitchell Trubisky has certainly favored shorter passes in his first three games, but White could be a gamebreaker for him in more ways than one, and fans should look for him to be more active in the team’s offense Sunday.