Do Bears gain or lose an edge because Buccaneers have yet to play?
Let’s make this clear: After Hurricane Irma uprooted trees and families, caused death, ruined homes and led more than 10 million people to lose power, no one is complaining about the strategic advantages of a football game.
On Sunday, however, the Bears will be in a position not seen in the NFL in 16 years, the last time the league had an uneven number of teams: They will be facing a team in Week 2 that has yet to play a game.
The Buccaneers’ opener against the Dolphins was pushed back to their mutual bye in Week 11 because of the storm. Players who didn’t take a team charter to Charlotte, North Carolina, to wait out the storm scattered across the country, only to return for practice Wednesday at One Buc Place.
The Bucs watched film of the Bears in Week 1, but not vice versa. Plus, the Bears suffered injuries to receiver Kevin White and inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, who were put on injured reserve, in the opener.
‘‘I think the only advantage I could see is we’ve lost some players from last week that won’t play this week, and they’re pretty clean that way,’’ Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. ‘‘But when it’s due to a hurricane, you don’t really worry about that. You do what’s best for everybody.’’
The last time an NFL team didn’t play in Week 1, the Cardinals had a bye to begin the 2001 season. It will happen twice Sunday, with the Bucs hosting the Bears and the Chargers hosting the Dolphins.
Neither coach John Fox, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains nor Fangio can remember preparing for a team that had yet to play when their team had.
‘‘You adjust,’’ Fox said. ‘‘That’s what you do.’’
Does it favor a team without film or one that might be more comfortable after getting Week 1 jitters out of the way?
‘‘That’s way too complicated of a question for me,’’ Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. ‘‘We’re the team that hasn’t played, and Chicago’s the team that has played. That’s what it is.’’
The teams are familiar to each other. By a quirk of the schedule, this will be the fourth consecutive season they’ve played. Both sides have the same coach and coordinators they had last season.
The Bucs’ offense added receiver DeSean Jackson and drafted tight end O.J. Howard in the first round, and the Bears reworked their
entire defensive backfield.
Bears quarterback Mike Glennon knows the Bucs’ defense after playing there the last four seasons, and Koetter knows the foibles of his former backup.
‘‘I was going against them with the scout team every day last year,’’ Glennon said. ‘‘It’s little different when you break them down and start game-planning them than when you’re just going against them in practice.
‘‘A lot of things look familiar, but they haven’t played a game yet, so I have to be prepared for anything.’’
Loggains is familiar with Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith’s philosophy.
‘‘They’re not going to go far from their base and what they do,’’ Loggains said. ‘‘But if they have new wrinkles and personnel packages, this is going to be the first time they get to show that.
‘‘If they haven’t put it on tape yet — like we hadn’t put [running back] Tarik [Cohen] on tape yet as a wide receiver or as a wildcat quarterback — those wrinkles obviously become tough to adjust to and tough to handle because you don’t have time to prepare for it.’’
The Bucs have the element of surprise with those unscouted looks.
‘‘You treat it like you did in Week 1,’’ outside linebacker Sam Acho said, ‘‘when all you have is preseason tape.’’
The Bears say they’re ready.
‘‘They’re going to be the team they’ve always been,’’ defensive end Akiem Hicks said.
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