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Bears-Buccaneers matchup of the day: Tuesday

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
Associate editor

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Posted Oct. 18, 2011 @ 7:26 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

Here's a look at a key matchup heading into Sunday's battle between the Bears and Buccaneers.

Bears WR-RS Devin Hester vs. Buccaneers P Michael Koenen

Koenen, who also handles kickoffs, is one of the top punters in the game. Koenen, who spent the previous six seasons with the Falcons, was the most notable free-agent addition made by the Bucs this offseason.

The six-year, $19.5 million contract the Bucs signed him to turned some heads this offseason, but it's turning out to be money well spent.

Koenen ranks fourth in the league in net punting average (42.5 yards) and teams have had little success returning punts against him. Tampa Bay allows just 6.3 yards per punt return, ranking eighth in the league, and Koenen has also been very effective kicking off. The Bucs rank second in the league in opposition kickoff-return average and give up only 18.4 yards per kickoff return.

Hester returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown Sunday vs. the Vikings and returned a punt for a score two weeks earlier vs. the Panthers. He's capable of burning the Bucs, but only if Koenen gives him a chance to make a return.

Koenen has a strong enough leg to boot the ball out of the endzone on kickoffs (14 of his 27 kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks) and he gets great hang time on his punts. Tampa Bay's coverage should have time to get downfield and surround one of the greatest returners in league history.

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