After big wins last Sunday, both the Bears (4-6) and Buccaneers (2-8) will be looking to make it two in a row. With some familiar faces on the opposing side, here's a look at Chicago's Week 12 opponent:
What's new: Coming off arguably the best performance in NFL history for a rookie wide receiver, Mike Evans has quickly emerged as not only the top target in the Tampa Bay offense, but one of the premier downfield threats in the entire league. Versus Washington in Week 11, Evans had 209 yards, the most ever by a first-year receiver in a regulation game. That came on just seven receptions, two of which went for touchdowns. Evans' monster game was not the first time he's lit up the stat sheet. The rookie out of Texas A&M has eclipsed 120 receiving yards in each of the team's past three games and now leads all rookies in that category.
What's old:** Since entering the NFL in 2010, Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has been one of the league's top interior penetrators. Playing in the middle of Tampa Bay's 4-3 defense, McCoy is having another standout year this season. Through nine games, he has a team-high 6.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss, despite facing double-teams on many plays. McCoy is one of the lone bright spots on a defense that has struggled this season. The Bucs rank 27th in yards, allowing 384.3 per game, and 30th in points at 27.9 points a contest.
Last time out: Behind Evans' big day, Tampa Bay snapped a five-game losing streak and defeated Washington, 27-7. While the rookie wide receiver was clearly the star of the show, the Buccaneers' defense also played their best game of the season. Tampa racked up six sacks and had two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. The Bucs did have trouble stopping the run, as the Redskins gained 155 yards on 31 carries.
Series history: The Bears and Bucs, former NFC Central foes, will be meeting on Sunday for the 55th time. Chicago has won two-thirds of the games, going 36-18 since the matchup began in 1977. At Soldier Field, the winning percentage for the Bears is even higher, as they've gone 20-6 versus the Buccaneers at home. The last time the teams played, on Oct. 23, 2011, Chicago won 24-18 behind 145 rushing yards from Kyle Long. That game was played in London's Wembley Stadium.
Ex-factor: Some teams have a handful of former Bears players on the roster, but nobody besides the Buccaneers has a former Bears head coach on its staff. Lovie Smith, the third-winningest coach in Bears history with an 84-66 overall record from 2004-2012, is in his first season leading the Buccaneers. Smith brought a few familiar faces with him to Tampa Bay. His defensive coordinator is Leslie Frazier, who played for the Bears from 1981-1985. The team's quarterback is Josh McCown, who played in Chicago from 2011-2013 and made five starts for the Bears a year ago. Along with McCown, the Buccaneers also have former Bears Major Wright and Isaiah Frey on their active roster. The only Bear to ever play for the Buccaneers is reserve defensive end Trevor Scott, who spent part of the 2013 campaign in Tampa Bay.
Injury report: The past two weeks, Tampa Bay has been without its top cornerback, Alterraun Verner, who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury. Verner, who has 46 tackles and an interception on the season, could be a game- time decision against the Bears. Tampa Bay will likely be without running back Doug Martin, who is out with a sore ankle, and tight end Luke Stocker, who is battling a hip injury. Both Martin and Stocker were inactive versus Washington last week.
Did you know?: Extended weather forecasts shouldn't be taken as gospel, but the reports project it won't be too chilly this weekend along the shores of Lake Michigan. That's positive news for the visitors from sunny Florida, who do not want the temperature to drop too much. According to Pro Football Reference, the Buccaneers are 4-28 all-time (dating back to their expansion season of 1976) in games where the temperature is below 40 degrees. Ten of those games came in Chicago, with the Bucs going 1-9 in those contests; Tampa also grabbed a win in 2002 in 28-degree air when the Bears played home games in Champaign, Ill.
For comparisons sake, the Bears have played in 126 games with the temperature below 40 since the 1976 season. Chicago's record is 69-57 in those matchups, including the 21-13 victory over the Vikings last Sunday, where the kickoff temperature was a brisk 31 degrees.