Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Bucs Look Like Super Bowl Contenders

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In Sunday’s battle of Roberto Aguayo’s former employers, the Buccaneers turned the Bears into cannon fodder. After Tampa Bay’s Week 1 matchup against the Dolphins was postponed due to Hurricane Irma, the Bucs had an extra week to prepare for Chicago. They clearly used their planning time well, as they dismantled Chicago in a 29-7 home win.

The Bears had 20 rushing yards on 16 attempts—1.25 yards per carry—which means that the Bears might have done better just getting to the line of scrimmage on every run and falling forward. Chicago was only slightly better in the air, as the Bucs were not kind to Mike Glennon in his homecoming. The Bucs hit their former starter eight times, half of which came from Gerald McCoy, and deflected five passes. The Buccaneers seemed intent on proving that the Bears never should have signed Glennon in the first place. At the end of the first half, the they led 26-0.

Mike Evans had seven catches for 93 yards and a touchdown in the first three quarters, including this bit of performance art in the corner of the end zone.

The game marked the ninth straight road loss for Chicago, which was probably doomed entering this game without two of its best players: wide receiver Kevin White and linebacker Jerrell Freeman. Despite a close loss against the Falcons in Week 1, the Bears are now 0-2 and John Fox’s seat is getting warmer. There may be a temptation to pull Glennon in favor of rookie Mitchell Trubisky this season, but with the current state of Chicago’s offense, it would be nearly impossible for the rookie to succeed and the experience could stunt his development. Fox may be the first coach to be fired this season, but there probably isn’t a coach on the planet that could succeed with this Bears roster.

The Bucs, on the other hand, look like they could seriously compete for an NFC South title. The Panthers are looking like a shell of the team that reached Super Bowl 50 and lost Greg Olsen to a broken foot on Sunday. The Saints are 0-2 and their defense looks to be the E-ZPass lane of the league for the umpteenth year in a row. Jameis Winston had an unremarkable stat line—18 of 30 for 204 yards and the touchdown to Evans—but looks poised to make The Leap this season.

Winston is known for being a gunslinger, but on Sunday, he didn’t turn the ball over—a crucial change after he threw 18 interceptions last season, the second-most in the league. With DeSean Jackson drawing defensive attention with his vertical speed, Evans will have more space underneath to prove his chops as a bona fide top-tier receiver in the same class of Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, and Odell Beckham Jr. And when Doug Martin returns from his PED suspension in Week 5, the Bucs should be firing on all cylinders and could have one of the most formidable offenses in the league, with a talented defense to boot. Tampa Bay takes on Minnesota next week, which will provide a much tougher test than the Bears. If the Bucs can similarly dominate the Vikings next week, not only will they have the top swashbuckling mascot in the NFC, they’ll be in the conversation as a dark-horse Super Bowl candidate.

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