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Buccaneers 2016 season preview: Beating the Bears

NFL: Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Previewing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ season, game by game. Today: week ten, hosting the Chicago Bears.

Bucs’ all-time record vs. Bears: 18-38

Ah, the old NFC Central rivals meet again. The Bucs have faced the Bears many, many times, but most of those times came before 2002, when they were still in the same division. In recent years, those meetings have been less frequent — but there have still been three since 2011, and the Bucs lost all three of those games.

It’s probably time to change that. The Bears are what they almost always are, except for a few years under Lovie Smith: a mediocre team that’s stuck in a very difficult division. Jay Cutler is who he is, the Bears have at least invested heavily in their offensive line this time around, but they’re also a team that lacks some talent and depth at key position. Not, exactly, a force to be reckoned, especially in Tampa.

Jameis Winston could have a monstrous game here. The Bears are likely to start iffy veteran Tracy Porter and former first-round pick Kyle Fuller at the other. Winston should pick on Porter relentlessly. On defense, the Bucs’ pass rush should rely on Noah Spence and Jacquies Smith beating Charles Leno, a former seventh-round pick. As usual: if there’s no pass rush, the Bucs may have some real issues.

The Bucs should win this game, if they are who they think they are.. That is: a team on the rise. These are the kinds of games that the best teams in the NFL routinely win, and the Bucs’ failure to do so is a big part of why they haven’t been to the playoffs since the 2007 season.