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Where the Bears Match Up Best

Tampa Bay might be defending world champions but there is a team in the NFC North Tom Brady didn't beat last year.

The Bears should realize they're coming into Sunday's game against the world champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a target on their backs resulting from the way they embarrassed Tom Brady last year in Soldier Field.

Actually, he embarrassed himself by forgetting what down it was on fourth down, but the Bears had done plenty to win the game before the point where DeAndre Houston-Carson's pass defense stopped the last Buccaneers pass.

If you start with the premise Brady remembers his loss to Nick Foles last year, and add in how the Bears are still without running back David Montgomery and possibly Khalil Herbert, might not have Robert Quinn due to COVID-19 and have defensive stalwarts Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks battling injuries, then it's easy to explain the 10-point spread Vegas put on the game.

Tampa Bay's high-scoring offense is a nightmare for any defense and the only way to cope with a team like this is by taking advantage of the few mismatches apparent and then battle their better players to standoffs.

Here is where the Bears have their best chances to win matchups in Sunday's game at Tampa.

Bears DE Akiem Hicks vs. Buccaneers RG Alex Cappa

Hicks tried to play despite a groin injury last week and it didn't work well. If he's unable to go the Bears still have a better chance of winning a matchup here than other positions up front because Bilal Nichols would line up on this side. Cappa is in his third year as a starter and Hicks had one of his better games last year playing against him in the 20-19 victory at Soldier Field by the Bears. Cappa has a 61.8 blocking grade from PFF and at 6-6, 305, is a bit lean to be battling someone with the lower body strength of Hicks. However, Hicks might not have said lower-body strength due to the injury. Cappa has given up a sack and committed one penalty so far this season. It's an area of the line to probe with blitzes by Roquan Smith, as well.

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Bears WR Darnell Mooney vs. Buccaneers CB Dee Delaney

Whatever happened to that vaunted Tampa Bay secondary that looked so dominant in the playoffs? They're 28th against the pass this year but it's because of all the injuries they've suffered in the secondary. Delaney will have a large role on defense only because of those injuries. Richard Sherman will miss the game due to injury and both Carlton Davis III and Sean Murphy-Bunting are on injured reserve. Delaney is a player who barely made their roster and played for Jacksonville and Washington. He's given up two touchdown passes in only limited snaps this season and eight completions in 10 targets. The Bears are trying to move receivers to different spots in the offense and anticipate they'll try to move Mooney into the slot and take advantage of Delaney at times. Mooney is leading the Bears in receptions with 25 and average per catch (12.2 yards) and they'd like to get him downfield more than last year. He already has a 64-yard catch and appears to have taken another step up beyond his outstanding rookie year.

Bears TE Cole Kmet vs. Buccaneers S Mike Edwards

The Buccaneers will likely turn to Edwards again due to safety injuries but something may have happened last week in the development of Kmet that could boost the Bears greatly in coming weeks. He started to catch some passes downfield. They need a tight end to challenge downfield, especially against Tampa's safeties, because both of them are short. Edwards is 5-foot-10 and Antoine Winfield Jr. 5-9. Kmet is 6-6 and could win post-up battles downfield if Justin Fields has the chance to go there with the ball. Better yet, if the Bears dust off Jimmy Graham and remove some cobwebs, he is 6-7. This should be a secondary the Bears can use that tight end size against well. In fact, Jesse James at 6-7 should be another option. The Bears should have lofty ambitions in the passing game and try to take advantage of the lack of height in Tampa Bay's safeties if they can get the time to throw.

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