|IR/PUP/NFI||S Cameron Worrell (IR-shoulder); LB Marcus Reese (IR-shoulder); LB Rod Wilson (IR-knee); CB Alfonso Marshall (PUP-knee); LB Joe Odom (IR-ankle); WR Mark Bradley (IR-knee).||QB Brian Griese (IR-knee); LB Jeff Gooch (IR-back), OL Matt Stinchcomb (IR-back).|
|Out||RB Cedric Benson (knee); WR Bernard Berrian (thumb).||None.|
|Questionable||QB Rex Grossman (ankle).||S Will Allen (knee); TE Anthony Becht (knee); OT Anthony Davis (ankle); S Dexter Jackson (hamstring).|
|Probable||CB Jerry Azumah (hip); OG Ruben Brown (pectoral); C Olin Kreutz (elbow).||None.|
Rex Grossman, who was injured in the preseason, has returned to practice and is expected to dress as the third quarterback for this game. Kurt Kittner was waived. Rookie Kyle Orton has started all ten games and has shown steady improvement along the way. Running back Thomas Jones (ribs) returned to action last week after missing all or part of the previous three games. Rookie Cedric Benson (knee) isn't likely to return for several weeks, so Adrian Peterson will serve as Jones' backup. Peterson has responded to the increased action, averaging 6.3 yards per carry (34/215, 2 TDs) over the last three games. Right tackle Fred Miller (jaw) returned to action last week, a game earlier than expected. He shut down Panthers' end Julius Peppers. His assignment this week will be Greg Spires and Dewayne White. Due to the nature of the injury, Miller is believed to have lost a considerable amount of weight. How this carries over into his conditioning and strength merits watching.
Wide receiver Justin Gage was reinserted into the starting lineup after Mark Bradley was lost for the season to a knee injury. Gage responded with a seven catch performance against the Panthers. His ability to deliver crushing blocks on the edge adds a different dimension to both the running and passing attack. Wide receiver Carl Ford was cut to make room for Airese Currie (foot, hamstring), who was activated Wednesday. Tampa safeties Will Allen and Dexter Jackson have significant injuries that may limit their ability to play at a high level. Jackson was at practice Wednesday and is making progress. Jermaine Phillips will start at strong safety but the other will be a question mark. This could be the right time for tight end Desmond to exploit the middle of the field.
Tampa Bay will have two goals in mind. The first is to shut down the Bears' running attack. Having done that, they'll look to force Kyle Orton into quick throws with blitz pressure. The key matchup will feature left tackle John Tait against Simeon Rice (8 sacks). The Bears have had success running against stacked fronts and will seek to do that again. If the Buccaneers favor Muhsin Muhammad in coverage, it will be interesting to see if Orton can come off him quickly enough to find Gage or Clark.
Tampa Bay lost quarterback Brian Griese a month ago. Chris Simms has taken over, and although the won-lost results haven't been perfect, his numbers are eerily similar to those Griese was producing (their quarterback ratings are 79.6 and 78.2). At running back, Cadillac Williams had his first 100-plus yard rushing effort since the first month of the season. Hamstring and foot injuries forced him to miss time and then limited his effectiveness. Michael Pittman was asked to step up while Williams was hurt, but Pittman broke down as well. When both are healthy, Pittman has the role of third down back.
Offensive tackle Anthony Davis (ankle) will face Alex Brown, who terrorized Carolina's Travelle Wharton last week. The Buccaneers can turn to veteran Todd Steussie if Davis struggles or is too injured to play. Tight end Anthony Becht has a knee injury, which means there will be a greater reliance on rookie Alex Smith. Tampa Bay likes to use two tight end sets, and will often keep one in to help in pass protection. If the Bears can get a good push from their front four, this will become a necessity to keep Simms upright.
Tampa will try to establish Cadillac Williams running the ball so they can set up play action for deeper routes to wide receiver Joey Galloway. The Bears will apply constant pressure to Simms, who has played in the same number of games (10) as Orton. If the Bears' defensive line has a game like it did last week against the Panthers, it could be a long afternoon for Simms. Tampa Bay has allowed 25 sacks. After getting sacked 11 times in his first two starts, Simms hasn't been sacked the last two weeks (neither has Orton).
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!