It’s been an uphill battle, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have scratched and clawed their way back to .500. Their improbable comeback win vs the Saints puts them in the driver seat of the NFC South. Now they will look to build on this momentum as they travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers.
This will be a very different challenge as the leaders of the NFC West division feature the league’s top ranked defense. This potential playoff matchup is the type of game the Bucs need to win to be considered a legitimate playoff threat.
However, games aren’t played on paper. The Bucs have the talent and the championship pedigree to upset the 49ers. Here are the matchups that will determine this game.
49ers’ D-Line vs Buccaneers’ O-Line
The 49ers pass rush is formidable. They come into this game ranked 8th in the NFL in sacks. This could be described as the strength of their team.
Nick Bosa leads the NFL in sacks this year at 14.5. Charles Omenihu and Arik Armstead are two more dangerous bigger body pass rushers along with rookie Drake Jackson as guys to watch out for. It really is a deep revolving door of talent.
For the Buccaneers their talent and depth has already been stretched thin. Despite an impressive game vs a comparable Saints defensive line last week, backup right tackle will have a lot to prove again this week. As will Robert Hainsey, Nick Leverett and the rest of this makeshift offensive line.
If the Bucs can’t neutralize the 49ers up front then it will be nearly impossible to win this game.
Mr. Irrelevant vs Todd Bowles
The Buccaneers have a history of being burned by rookie quarterbacks. They will have a chance this week to rewrite some of the history. Brock Purdy will be making his first NFL start this week after Jimmy Garoppolo had his season come to an end last week.
Purdy was the last player drafted in the 2022 draft, a title affectionately known as Mr. Irrelevant. He was a multi-year starter at Iowa State, so he does have a lot of college experience. However, the NFL is an entirely different ball game.
As the widely respected defensive mastermind, Todd Bowles has to do everything he can to confuse the rookie. His use of secondary and willingness to move players around is well known and difficult to prepare for. This must lead to turnovers and a limited 49ers passing offense for the Bucs to have a chance.
49ers hybrid stars vs Bucs linebackers
The 49ers have a pair of stars who can run the ball and catch passes. These are Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel. Both are explosive, versatile and ideal chess pieces for a brilliant offensive mind like Kyle Shanahan.
Then there’s the incredible tight end George Kittle. He brings the blocking ability of an offensive lineman and the athletic skill set of a wide receiver. He could be the best tight end in the NFL today.
Stopping these three feels like an impossible job. Lavonte David and Devin White will be tasked with this responsibility for much of the game. This is a clash of titans that could feature multiple future Hall of Famers.
This is the most difficult test that the Buccaneers have left in their schedule. A win would be a massive confidence boost for a team that has struggled to find their groove. It would also go a long way in clinching a playoff spot.
With that said, it’s hard to see this offense being able to move the ball consistently. Let’s not forget that this group only scored 3 points through 55 minutes last week. There is no reason to expect better on the road against this top ranked 49ers defense.
I do expect a Bucs forced turnover or two. I also expect a big Mike Evans game. With that said, it’s hard to picture this one going the Bucs way.
Buccaneers – 6
49ers – 23
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