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CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 10: Jameis Winston #3 and teammate Mike Evans #13 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate their 3rd quarter touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the game at Bank of America Stadium on October 10, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

By Leo Haggerty
It’s Sports Magazine


We found out two things from the opening-day 29-7 win by the Buccaneers over the Bears. One about Chicago and the other relating to Tampa Bay.

First, Chicago was, and maybe is, awful. This was not the same team that had, in their opener at Soldier Field, the defending National Football Conference champion Atlanta Falcons on the ropes and ready to go down. It was a dropped pass, and we saw a plethora of those from the Bears receivers at Raymond James Stadium last Sunday, on the Dirty Birds goal line inside the last minute of the game that left the Windy City Crew on the wrong side of the dash against Hotlanta.

Second, we saw that the Pewter Pirates were extremely opportunistic. If the defense had a chance to make a play, in most cases, they did. DC Mike Smith’s bunch got off the field on a majority of third downs along with creating short-field situations with turnovers as well as a Pick 6 for points.

When the Buccaneers offense was presented with the pigskin deep in Chicago territory they cashed in with touchdowns. For all intents and purposes, Tampa Bay put Chicago away by halftime. That’s one of the signs of a good team.

In won’t be this easy at U.S Bank Stadium this Sunday when the opposition is the 1-1 Minnesota Vikings. Or will it be?

Here’s the big question mark for the Vikes. QB Sam Bradford, who probably had the best game of any signal-caller in the National Football League on the opening weekend when he torched New Orleans, did not play in the 26-9 road loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Week 2. After listening to HC Mike Zimmer earlier this week, it looks like #8 will be another game-time decision or at least that’s the line coming out of the Twin Cities and they’re sticking to it.

So now the Tampa Bay defense has to prepare for Bradford as well as backup QB Case Keenum. That takes away valuable practice time in preparing for a Minnesota offense that is truly multi-dimensional. The Bucs defense will have its hands full and here’s why.

Not only can the Vikes throw the football to a bevy of wide receivers but they also, in my opinion, got the steal of the draft when former Florida State RB Dalvin Cook was there for the taking early in the second round. Now you have to stop #33 or, as the Saints found out the hard way Week 1, #33 can drop a “Benjamin plus some” on you in a heartbeat. That opened up the play-action passing game and Bradford carved up the New Orleans secondary at will.

When it comes to the Tampa Bay passing game, most defenses will be double-teaming either WR DeSean Jackson or WR Mike Evans. The Purple People Eaters will be no exception. They will either try to take #11 or #13 away from Bucs QB Jameis Winston.

If Bradford plays, look for this one to go down to the wire with the last team with the football probably winning. I think that will be the Vikings with a late field goal only because they’re playing at home. If Keenum has to fill in again, I’ve got Tampa Bay in a double-digit road triumph.

All that’s left to do is to watch and see. I know that’s what I’ll be doing. How about you?