Tonight’s game is equal parts NFC Central reunion and Super Bowl LII reunion. Both teams are 3-1, both quarterbacks own Super Bowl MVP awards.
Simms and I made our picks earlier today; we both like the Bucs over the Bears. Here are a few things I’ll be paying attention to tonight.
1. Who’ll catch the passes for Tampa?
Chris Godwin is out, Mike Evans and Scotty Miller (who seems to catch at least one deep pass every game) are banged up. O.J. Howard won’t play again this year. Cameron Brate could get more involvement, and Gronk could get more chances.
2. Is Gronk back?
Rob Gronkowski made a nice seam-route catch in traffic on Sunday, but he’s still running in mud. Watch him fire off the line tonight into his pattern. Does he have it? After more than two months of training camp and the regular season, if he doesn’t have it now, he may not have it again.
3. Who’ll run the ball for Tampa?
Ronald Jones played well on Sunday. Leonard Fournette is active despite an ankle that caused him to miss Week Four. Jay Glazer of FOX said during the pregame show that linebacker Devin White got some reps at tailback this week, and that he could play in an emergency situation.
4. Can Nick Foles do Nick Foles things?
Foles is at his best when he stands tall in the pocket and fires the ball down the field. It exposes him to plenty of hits. But it also sets up some potential big plays that can go along way toward generating momentum and flipping field position.
5. Watch Charles Leno, Jr.
Abused on an inside rush by Colts pass rusher Justin Houston for a sack, Leno got away with a false start two snaps later as he tried to get a jump on stopping Houston. Keep an eye on whether 72 in blue can slow down a potent Tampa pass rush.
I could say more, but the game’s about to start. Time to press “publish” and then enjoy what could/should be a good game.