It is about time, Bucs fans! The preseason is in the books and the 2019 NFL regular season kicks off on Sunday for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Bucs square off against the San Francisco 49ers, but can they beat them?
Key to Winning: Offensive Line
Defensively, San Francisco has plenty of weapons to make life tough for Tampa Bay. The Niners finished the last season as the worst team in the league, which enabled them to acquire Nick Bosa with their first overall pick. With Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Dee Ford playing on their defensive line, the Bucs’ offensive linemen will have their hands full.
The play of the offensive line will determine the outcome of the game. After heavy struggles late in the preseason, the unit needs to find a way to provide Jameis Winston time to make plays in the pocket. A decent running game certainly would help the Buccaneers’ passing game tremendously. However, do not expect the Bucs to get much going on the ground this week against San Francisco’s strong defensive line.
Kwon Alexander returns to Tampa in his first game in a different uniform. He seems fully healthy and is expected to start this Sunday. Alexander should end up having to cover O.J. Howard for a major part of the game. Without a doubt, he is an outstanding coverage linebacker. Yet, look for Howard to end up winning this matchup as the game progresses. It will undoubtedly feel strange to see Kwon in another uniform, especially at Raymond James Stadium.
Though preseason doesn’t mean much, the Buccaneers defense looked surprisingly good for the major part of the preseason. When it counts, the young unit will have to prove itself against seemingly one of the weaker offenses in the NFL. San Francisco’s quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo did not play overly impressive in the preseason. Facing the 49ers could be an excellent opportunity for Todd Bowles’ new defense to start off the season on a high note and gain some much-needed confidence
On the other hand, since 2017, the 49ers have averaged 25.6 points per game when Garoppolo played. Without him, they only averaged 19.2 points per game during that time span. He should definitely not be underestimated.
All in all, the performance of Tampa Bay’s defense is extremely difficult to predict. Odds are the defense will struggle, especially early in the season.
Matchup of the Game: Mike Evans vs. Richard Sherman
Mike Evans will have his work cut out for him lining up against Richard Sherman. While Sherman might not be the player he once was, he is still one of the better cornerbacks in the league. Expect a tough battle between two greats at their respective positions.
Conclusively, the Buccaneers should be able to come away with a victory but expect an ugly game. Winston will not have much time in the pocket. He will finish the night with two touchdowns and 210 passing yards. Unfortunately, he will commit two turnovers, as well. It will still be enough for the Bucs to be able to secure an ugly, yet much-needed, win.