After a big bounce back win last week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have moved their record up to 4-5. While this game was extremely promising in terms of what they did on the field, it may be too early to say that the Bucs are back on track. Especially with this weekend’s difficult matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers are 6-3 on the season, but that record is a little misleading. They had a three game losing streak this season while several key players were out with injuries. When healthy, I believe that San Francisco is the best team in the NFC and perhaps the entire NFL.
However, that won’t stop the Bucs from trying their best to walk away with a win on Sunday. It will require their best game and even that might still not be enough. The Buccaneers will have to win all of these key battles to even have a chance in this one.
Defensive Tackles Control The Line Of Scrimmage
This is a game that has to be won in the trenches for the Bucs. The 49ers have a very athletic offensive line and love to move sideline to sideline to break off outside runs. It’s part of what makes this Shanahan running game so effective.
Luckily, the Buccaneers have a pair of defensive tackles who can move down the line as well. Nose tackle Vita Vea moves incredibly well for a man of his massive size. If he can control the interior by himself, which is something he’s capable of, then the 49ers will have some difficulty running the ball.
Rookie Calijah Kancey could also play a big role in this game. He is as athletic of a defensive tackle as you’ll find in the NFL and is someone who can knife through the offensive line to make tackles for loss or sacks. He is someone who will be an x-factor in this game for the Bucs.
Safeties Must Shine
The 49ers present a very bad matchup for the Buccaneers on the outside. They feature several quick and shifty pass catchers and that is always the prototype that has given Carlton Davis and even Jamel Dean trouble. This is a stylistic advantage for San Francisco.
To compensate for that, the Bucs safeties have to have a big game to support those corners. We know that will probably be the case for Antoine Winfield Jr. The fourth year safety out of Minnesota has played at an All Pro level this year and is establishing himself as an elite player in the league.
I’ll be watching Dee Delaney and Chris Izien in this game. Delaney got a big increase in playing time last week and it’s no coincidence that the defense played very well. Izien has been the starting nickel all year as an undrafted rookie and has been rock solid game in and game out.
These two in particular will have to help slow down the 49ers receivers, as well as the likes of tight end George Kittle and running back Christian McCaffery.
Don’t Test 54
When I say the number 54, you probably think of Lavonte David. He’s been a star linebacker in the NFL for over a decade and is still playing at a very high level. He should be a lock for the Hall of Fame and might be the best linebacker the league has seen over the last 20 years.
However, in this case, I’m talking about the other 54 on the field this weekend. That would be 49ers linebacker Fred Warner. Many would call him the best linebacker in the NFL today and he deserves all the praise that he gets.
The thing that he does best, which has brought all that praise to him, is his ability in pass coverage. There isn’t a better pass defending linebacker in the NFL and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one as good as Warner in this area of his game. He is a lockdown coverage player.
This can be dangerous for a quarterback like Baker Mayfield who has struggled over the middle in the past. One mistake or one tipped pass is all it takes for Warner to make an offense pay. The best plan is to look elsewhere with the ball.