The best guess is that Ryan Fitzpatrick hangs up at his starting job on Sunday when Jameis Winston returns from a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after being accused of trying to inspire a Uber driver in 2016 .
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter was intentionally shy about who will be his starter against the Bears, but what Fitzpatrick did – a 1,230-yard league leader completing 70.3% of his passes and launching 11 touchdown – guarantees another beginning, even with a previous choice n. 1 in Winston who returns (Fitzpatrick was also the quarterback with the highest score of Pro Football Focus so far).
"This is the key to playing in the NFL – you have to be prepared," linebacker Khalil Mack said. "You get paid to go out and be able to know, no matter who it is, you have to be prepared, this will be a challenge, you're ready to face the challenge."
Winston started against the Bears in each of the last three seasons, completing 61 percent of his 811-yard passes with five touchdowns, two interceptions and a passport rating of 98.6. But it was not the reason why the Buccaneers passed the Bears, 29-7, last year in Tampa – it would have been Mike Glennon's day full of sales – and he only launched for 204 yards at 18/30 with a touchdown.
But a common refrain from those who have the Bears this week is that Tampa Bay's offense does not change much when Fitzpatrick is quarterback compared to Winston.
"They run the same crime with both boys," said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. "Obviously, Winston is a bit more scrambler, more active in his pocket, but also Fitzpatrick, I do not think the offense changes a lot with either."
This means that even the Bears' defense will not have to change much.
"Strangely, (I'm) kind of, like, the same in a sense," said Mack. "You can see the experience on Fitzpatrick, his scrimmage line control … Jameis … has some of the intangibles … It will be … It's a bit different, but it's still similar in a weird way for me to be a defensive boy, we'll see when we play. "
With Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper both having injuries to the biceps femoris, and Tampa Bay possessing perhaps the best trio of NFL receivers so far this year, the Bears will have to constantly press on whoever the quarterback of the Buccaneers is. Fitzpatrick was under pressure for about one in three drop backs – which puts him in the middle of the starting quarterbacks group – but he was only fired for 11% of his dropbacks, the eighth lowest percentage among the 2018 departing.
With the debutant Kevin Toliver II lining up to play – and being teased – a lot, generating that pressure on the quarterback will be a key key to the Bears' defense to keep the pressure off Toliver. But whoever plays quarterback for Tampa Bay will not remain in the game.
"He's not honest, whoever is out there knows he trusts him enough to be out there, so we have to take care of him," linebacker Danny Trevathan said. "We do not really know where it is headed now, we only know who is out there that we have to move forward and complete."